Regarded as one of the finest batsmen ever produced by Pakistan, Mohammad Yousuf represented Pakistan in three-hundred and eighty-one matches and amassed over seventeen-thousand runs.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net. Yousuf spoke in detail on a variety of topics including his willingness to work in the Pakistan Super League, his views on the reasons for Pakistan's ODI struggles and the dangers of reverting back to previously tried senior players, why Pakistan will feel the loss due to the retirement of Younis Khan, the possible replacements for Misbah and Younis, and analysed the effects of the PSL spot-fixing scandal on Pakistan cricket.
By Saj Sadiq (12th April, 2017)
PakPassion.net : Do you feel that the Pakistan Super League is serving its purpose in producing high quality cricketers for Pakistan?
Mohammad Yousuf : It's too early to say, as it has only been two editions. However the problems in our batting continue to haunt us and it's going to take more than the Pakistan Super League to rectify and remedy those issues.
PakPassion.net : Do you think more PSL matches should be played in Pakistan than the eight that have been earmarked for next year's edition?
Mohammad Yousuf : I think the whole tournament should be played in Pakistan and not just a few matches.
PakPassion.net : The PSL seems to be producing some excellent bowling talent for Pakistan, but the batsmen aren't coming through. Why do you think that is?
Mohammad Yousuf : I'd like to see the Pakistani batsmen at the PSL batting higher up the order. Too many of them are being pushed down the order and that isn't a policy that will benefit Pakistan cricket. I mean look at Imad Wasim at the PSL, he rarely got a chance to bat and that defeats the whole objective of the PSL which is to groom Pakistani talent. The franchise owners and those running the PSL need to realise that the prime objective of this tournament is to ensure that it prepares cricketers for Pakistan and produces players of a high calibre, who can perform at the highest level. I believe that Pakistan cricket will keep on unearthing superb bowling talent, but we need to work harder in producing high-class batsmen.
PakPassion.net : Many former Pakistani cricketers are involved in the PSL, but why doesn't your name appear amongst the list?
Mohammad Yousuf : This is something for the PSL organisers to decide upon. If I am asked to take up a role as a mentor or as a coach then I am willing to take on that responsibility. The organisers offered me a contract in a previous edition of the PSL but there were a couple of issues with the contract that I wanted removing, but they wouldn't remove them, so that did not materialise.
PakPassion.net : But surely the opportunity to work with some of the best upcoming talent in Pakistan at the PSL must be a mouth-watering prospect for you?
Mohammad Yousuf : Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to work at the PSL. Working with the batsmen at the PSL is something that I would dearly like to do and I hope I am given this opportunity. I am what I am due to Pakistan and I would love to give something back to my country. My record speaks for itself; All you need to do is look at the records I broke during my playing days. I would love to pass on my experience and knowledge to young cricketers at the PSL.
PakPassion.net : What do you feel are the issues with Pakistan's One-Day batsmen?
Mohammad Yousuf : With all due respect to the West Indies bowlers, the fact is that Pakistani batsmen should be scoring at a much better rate than they have in the One-Day series. Looking at the line-up of the West Indies, their bowling attack is incredibly weak yet our batsmen are batting in such a cautious manner. The rookies in the West Indies batting line-up like Jason Mohammed are looking like they have been playing international cricket for years and the experienced Pakistani batsmen who have been playing international cricket for a while are looking like rookies.
PakPassion.net : Do you think complacency is an issue when it comes to the Pakistani batsmen at times?
Mohammad Yousuf : I give the example of Steve Smith. He entered international cricket as a bowler and now look at him, he is one of the best batsmen in the world. If he can do it, then anyone can do it. Batting is not a difficult art, but many of our batsmen complicate it and make it look more difficult than what it actually is. Teams are scoring six-hundred runs in a One-Day international across the two innings. If people had said that a few years ago nobody would have believed them. As I say, batting is not a difficult art if you keep it simple and that is where our batsmen are struggling.
PakPassion.net : But that doesn't explain what you feel are the issues with the Pakistan One-Day batting line-up?
Mohammad Yousuf : The biggest problem is that the Pakistani batsmen are batting for themselves and not for their country. The passion, the patriotism isn't there in the senior Pakistani batsmen. I will go as far as to say that these senior batsmen in the Pakistan One-Day team are putting their own averages ahead of the team's requirements. It seems like they are more interested in scoring a fifty than they are in ensuring that Pakistan wins. In the modern game, playing a selfish innings of forty or fifty runs at a strike-rate of seventy five doesn't help anyone. Our batsmen in the modern game achieve a strike-rate of eighty and they are ecstatic; well sorry but these days that does not work. Anyone can make a half century at a poor strike-rate, but what really counts are the innings that change the course of a match. We are not seeing enough of these match-winning innings from our batsmen. Our batsmen's eyes light up when they see spinners, yet when they face a bowler who is bowling at eighty-five MpH or more then they can't put bat to ball.
PakPassion.net : What do you feel has been the root cause of Pakistan's downward spiral in the One-Day rankings?
Mohammad Yousuf : The biggest problem is that we have been playing our home series in UAE. Those pitches are wonderful for batting and our batsmen have become accustomed to those batting-friendly conditions and have become lazy. They have built up their averages and accumulated easy runs, then, when they are tested outside Asia, they struggle and do not have a clue what to do. This situation is one for the Board to look into and rectify.
PakPassion.net : Babar Azam has been a shining light in the Pakistan batting line-up. You must be impressed with his performances?
Mohammad Yousuf : First of all, which genius decided to bat Mohammad Hafeez ahead of Babar Azam in the first One-Day international? Babar has been superb batting at number three yet he was demoted to number four. These are the sort of decisions that are hurting Pakistan cricket. These sort of selfish innings by some senior batsmen are the reason why we are struggling to make the big scores that other teams are scoring in the modern game. Babar is a classy batsman who should not be shuffled around in the batting order. He is Pakistan's future and a world-class talent.
PakPassion.net : Do you think the selection policy of going back to players who have had many opportunities in the One-Day format is one that will pay dividends?
Mohammad Yousuf : Look I've been impressed with Kamran Akmal in his comeback, but this policy is a high-risk one. If some of these players who have had countless chances over the years are still batting slowly and for themselves then you may as well give youngsters a chance and build their confidence for the future.
PakPassion.net : What about your thoughts on the Pakistan pace bowlers in the One-Day format?
Mohammad Yousuf : What I find mystifying is that you have two new white balls and yet most of our pace bowlers cannot swing the ball conventionally or reverse it. Back in the day, our bowlers would more often than not lead us to victory if the batsmen could put up a competitive score. However, these days our pace bowlers cannot even defend three-hundred.
PakPassion.net : The Pakistan Cricket Board has opted for overseas coaches at the national level. Do you think this is working well?
Mohammad Yousuf : I'm sure the overseas coaches are working hard and doing their best to improve the cricketers they are working with. The problem is that the coaches can only do so much and it's very easy to blame the coaching staff when things go wrong, as if they can perform miracles with players who are clearly struggling. Mickey Arthur wanted power-hitters and he has now realised that Pakistan doesn't have power-hitters, so what can the coach do if that sort of player is not available? We don't have batsmen who have the strength to clear the ropes on a regular basis and in that situation it's harsh to blame the coaches.
PakPassion.net : A Pakistani great has decided to retire from international cricket after the series against West Indies. Your thoughts on the career of Younis Khan?
Mohammad Yousuf : Younis Khan's performances for Pakistan are exemplary in Test cricket. He has performed throughout his career, wherever he has played. He is a legend of that there is no doubt. He will become the first Pakistani to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket and that speaks volumes for his undoubted class. He should be remembered by cricket-lovers as an all-time great and he should be respected for his achievements.
PakPassion.net : Do you think Younis Khan should have delayed his retirement given that Misbah-ul-Haq had announced his retirement a couple of days before him?
Mohammad Yousuf : The decision and timing is entirely Younis' choice and only he can really answer why he chose this time to announce his retirement. Every great player has to call it a day at some point and I think now is a good time for Younis to retire.
PakPassion.net : How difficult is it going to be to replace Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan?
Mohammad Yousuf : Younis will be difficult to replace but replacing Misbah will not be difficult as most of his good performances have been in the UAE. We have seen Misbah's capabilities recently in New Zealand and Australia. I don't think replacing Misbah will be a huge problem, but the real problem will be finding and grooming a replacement for Younis Khan. If the PCB keeps playing home series in UAE then the replacements won't have a problem scoring runs there, but will get found out in series away from home.
PakPassion.net : It could be suggested that Misbah's and Younis' retirements also give an opportunity for others to lead from the front?
Mohammad Yousuf : Actually if you look at the performances, Asad Shafiq's performances have been better than Misbah-ul-Haq and he has made centuries away from UAE, including South Africa. Azhar Ali was excellent in Australia and Pakistan's top scorer in the Test series there. Both Asad and Azhar can lead the Pakistan Test batting and I think both are very capable batsmen. What they need are players to support them and bat around them. I think Usman Salahuddin and Asif Zakir are two batsmen who I have been impressed with and both of whom have performed very well in domestic cricket. Both of these batsmen deserve a chance in Test cricket. Give them an opportunity, give them a decent run in the side and see what they can do.
PakPassion.net : Many believe that a tough period is in store for Pakistan's Test team in the coming years. Do you agree with this?
Mohammad Yousuf : Well, Pakistan should comfortably win the Test series in the West Indies. In home series providing they are in UAE, Pakistan will cope. However, what has happened is that we have not groomed enough world-class cricketers and we have not prepared for the future and now find ourselves having to rebuild the Test team which is not ideal. The progress of good players has been blocked in recent times and now as a result of this policy, a period of struggle may ensue.
PakPassion.net : Do you think the recent spot-fixing scandal at the PSL is another very damaging chapter in Pakistan cricket?
Mohammad Yousuf : I don't think the reputation of Pakistan cricket has been damaged, rather the reputation of those guilty individuals is being tarnished. Sadly, fixing has hit South Africa, India and other nations so it's not just a Pakistani problem. There are honest and dishonest cricketers in all countries and they are the ones that need to be identified and removed from cricket. With the PSL allegations, it is worth noting that the allegations are yet to be proved, so let's see what the outcome is before jumping to conclusions. I also believe that any player guilty of spot-fixing should be banned for life as that is the only way to deter others from doing such acts in future.