Celebrating the tenth anniversary of his début for Pakistan a little over a month ago, Younis Khan recently sat down with PakPassion.net to look back at his decade long career. And what an illustrious career it has been too! 63 Test caps for his country; an impressive career batting average of 50.09; 16 centuries, 21 fifties, and to top it all off, a Test top score of 313 in a match-saving effort. Such a momentous feat can only be achieved through a unique mixture of hard work, perseverance, level headedness and most importantly, sheer talent.
Time to retire?
Currently facing an indefinite ban handed to him by the PCB after the recent debacle of the Australian tour, Younis talked about how he would like to see himself make a final exit from the world of international cricket. “If you look back at the period right after the 2003 World Cup, you will see that a handful of players including Saeed Anwar, Wasim Akram, Ijaz Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq were discarded from the team. Wasim Akram didn’t even actually retire; he was in England when he got the news (of his ouster). That is when I decided that I want to retire from cricket when I am at my peak.” Over the course of the next five years, Younis Khan matured into a brilliant cricketer and became a powerful force in Pakistan Cricket. His efforts culminated to him leading Pakistan to victory in the most recent T20 World Cup in England. “After winning the World Cup for Pakistan, I don’t know how much higher I can go,” said Younis, content with his decision to retire from T20s.
Personal reasons also contributed to Younis’ decision as “it takes a toll on the family and you eventually don’t have much time for them.” He has since focused on his test and ODI career despite the difficult times faced by Pakistan Cricket.
Future of Pakistan Batting
Younis Khan is adamant that the buck of the Pakistani batting line up does not end with the Younis and Yousuf pair. “A lot of people say that after Younis and Yousuf there isn’t much depth in our domestic cricket – I disagree. There are several players out there who can take up the mantle after us,” was Younis’ optimistic and confident prediction.
In his opinion however, the presence of senior, experienced players in the team is absolutely crucial for the benefit of younger members such as Ahmed Shehzad, whom he classified as a “very good, promising youngster.” Younis and Yousuf both agree that in the final years of their careers, what matters most is that they are available to support the younger generation, ensuring that the depth of talent, class and skill is maintained long after their departure. He is particularly impressed by other senior players in the international arena such as Sachin Tendulkar, whom he termed instrumental in helping younger players in the Indian team up their game.
The “One Down” Conundrum
Taking a step back from recent events and talk about the future, Younis described his journey through this last decade as one of risk taking and grasped opportunities. During the first half of his career, Younis Khan failed to reach the kind of potential that fans around the world have now come to expect from him on a regular basis. Coming in at various lower order positions in ODIs, he would “often have only 3 or 4 deliveries to settle in before having to hit out” and accelerate the run rate during the last few overs of the batting innings.
As a result, he was unable to build substantial scores or partnerships with other players as he never really had the opportunity to build an innings on his own. Unfortunately, this created a false image of Younis Khan the batsman. A lack of runs and successful partnerships prevented the board, coaches and captains from entrusting him with higher order responsibilities in both tests and ODIs.
In 2005 however, everything changed. Late Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer offered Younis the chance to turn over a new leaf by batting one down for Pakistan in test matches, sighting a dearth of players willing to take the challenge in that format. “Bob said that the no.3 slot would be a make or break position for my career. I would either be relegated if I didn’t seize the opportunity, or I would become a star through the sheer number of runs the position offers. I figured it might as well be worth a try,” recalled Younis. Justifying the faith Woolmer had in him, Younis scored a memorable 267 against India in Bangalore which helped level the test series for Pakistan.
He hasn’t looked back since; from 2005 to 2009, Younis Khan averaged 59.66 with the bat in test matches and upped his ODI average to 35.29, all the while maintaining captaincy of the team in all three formats.
The 2010 World Cup
Looking ahead to the upcoming T20 World Cup in the West Indies, Younis has faith that Team Pakistan will come good yet again and retain the trophy. “If you look at the squad that won the cup last year and the current squad, only a handful of players are missing. Most of the names are the same so we should have a good chance at defending the title,” predicted Younis. He noted that “Umar Akmal will be able to replace him as the anchor of the batting and although Malik will be missed due to the recent ban imposed on him; Fawad Alam should make up for it sufficiently.” He was all praise for Mohammad Asif as well, the lanky fast bowler from Sheikhupura. His presence in an already star studded bowling attack will further strength the bowling along with Umar Gul who has performed exceptionally well in the last 2 World Cups.
In a subtle message to his fans and the media, Younis remarked that it is very easy to misunderstand players’ attitudes as they are constantly being scrutinized and the smallest actions are blown out of proportion. “When I was playing for the U19s, some people felt I was proud although the fact that after 10 years of cricket I’m sitting here in front of you should prove to you that I’m not. I just wanted to do my best with the bat. I had very little interactions with the media and didn’t want to get involved with the publicity of it all.”
Similarly, he thinks some of the younger players are classified into the same category simply because they prefer not to get involved in the media’s affairs. He hopes that people will come and have “casual and frank conversations” in his home to get to understand who he really is.
In a final question about whether he would take the captaincy if offered again by the PCB and whether he would be a part of the squad over the next 2-3 years, Younis responded with his trade mark laughter. "The answer to that is something I like to keep to myself", was the smiling response. After the laughter subsided, Younis made it clear that he wanted to contribute more to Pakistan cricket. "Allah knows best and as long as Allah wants, I will play for Pakistan," the words of a truly humble and down to earth person. With the future of his ‘indefinite’ ban uncertain not only amongst the fan and media circles, but within the PCB itself, we may well see Younis Khan in Pakistan colors once again doing what he does best.
PakPassion.net wishes Younis Khan success, in all his future endeavours, and hopes that he gets to see an end to his career in the fashion he wants and deserves – on a high note.
If you want to watch the video, here is the link