Younis Khan's recent achievement to become Pakistan's top scoring Test cricketer past Javed Miandad has only confirmed his status as one of Pakistan's greatest players. With 104 Test matches and 9116 runs to his name, Younis Khan played an instrumental role in the recent Test series victory against England in the UAE. He has subsequently been named in the Pakistan ODI squad to take on England in the series which begins on 11th November.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the Pakistan batsman spoke about the inspiration behind his career which has seen him break Javed Miandad's Test runs record, upcoming talent in Pakistan, his own future plans and why he wants to succeed in all formats of the game.
By Amir Husain (7th November, 2015)
PakPassion.net : Who or what has been the inspiration for your success?
Younis Khan : Maybe inspiration would be the wrong word for it but what drives me to success is basically my intention of helping Pakistan in any way I can. In the past ten years or so, we as a country have had some bad times. Take the issues in Swat valley in 2009, we had many internally displaced people who came over to Mardan where I live. I used that tragedy as a source of motivation to do better and we won the 2009 World T20 which must have brought a smile to those people. That is what drives me – the fact that I can bring happiness back to my country and its citizens. This is what has also improved my performance as well.
May I also add here that when I go onto the field for Pakistan, my only intention is to make sure that I serve Pakistan to the best of my abilities. It doesn’t matter if it is Shoaib Akhtar bowling or Shoaib Malik, I will take that catch that comes to me or I will make runs for Pakistan or I will lend a helping hand or give advice to the younger players. This is why I am still playing and this is why I am still interested in cricket.
PakPassion.net : How would you describe your journey so far in a Test career which consists of more than a hundred matches?
Younis Khan : It has been a fantastic and smooth ride. I have never felt that I have had any bad days. There might have been ups and downs but nothing that I would class as a “testing time”. If you look at my career, you will note that one year after my debut, I was dropped from the national team. I faced some issues after the 2003 World Cup but with Bob Woolmer arriving on the scene, I was back in the squad. Further down the line, I was given a life ban as well but I was still not fazed by that. Yes those were tough situations but thanks to the Almighty, I never considered these as calamities and continued moving forward.
PakPassion.net : What was it like to break Javed Miandad’s record of becoming the highest Test runsscorer for Pakistan?
Younis Khan : It was a matter of great honour and pride for me to reach that milestone. Javed Miandad is a legendary player and I really don’t like to think that I have somehow become his equal by breaking this record. In my view, even scoring ten thousand more runs than Javed Bhai will not bring me close in stature to him. His services for Pakistan are well known and his name is not only recognized in Pakistan but also well respected across the globe. It is indeed a great honour for me to be mentioned in the same sentence as him.
PakPassion.net : Did you ever dream of playing more than a hundred Test matches for your country?
Younis Khan : To be honest, I never considered this possibility. Having said that it is a matter of great honour for any cricketer to have represented his country in so many matches. This is something which I hold in a high regard and am very proud of.
PakPassion.net : What legacy do you want to leave Pakistan's young cricketers when you retire?
Younis Khan : If there is one thing that I wish to be remembered by whenever I leave cricket, it will be as someone who has devoted his playing career for his country, Pakistan. I have never played for my own averages. I have never thought about milestones or if I should field in one place or do what is best for me. If there is training, then I have always wanted to be there first, if the team was going through a rough patch then I have always wanted to be the first to offer my services to help out. I was always the one to lead from the front, regardless of whether I am captain or not or whether I am a senior player or not. I would be very pleased to be remembered as a team man – that would be my legacy.
PakPassion.net : What are your thoughts on young talents like Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal and what they can do to improve themselves?
Younis Khan : In my view, both have a great future. However, I would like to say here that we haven’t dealt with or nurtured them in the right manner. This is not the fault of these two players who are immensely talented. All they need is proper guidance to move them in the right direction. If they are given that help then I can guarantee you that both will reach even greater heights and serve Pakistan better. I feel that both have the potential to provide better performances than Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq or any other player but we need to harness and use their talent properly.
PakPassion.net : How do you rate Pakistan's young up and coming batting talents?
Younis Khan : Well when we talk of upcoming talent, you don’t need to look too far as we have all seen the emergence of Mohammad Rizwan. He has tremendous fitness, is a good batsman and in a sense, he’s the complete package. On top of that he is also a wicket-keeper and his batting technique is also excellent. Of course we also spoke about Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal as well but the main point is that it's players like these who will be the ones to take over when the old-guard eventually leave the scene.
PakPassion.net : How is the inability to play international cricket effecting Pakistan cricket in general?
Younis Khan : Regardless of what anyone says, the home advantage which can be in the shape of nature of the pitch or the weather or any other aspect is extremely important. This cannot be found by playing anywhere else in the world. We must also remember that players earn respect and recognition at home first then the world takes notice. Look at Sachin Tendulkar, he was a star at home first and then recognized elsewhere. Same goes for Virat Kohli who became popular with home crowds playing in IPL against teams which have foreign players. Playing against top international players or teams at home is where your name gets recognized and this is what we are missing. Our youngsters need that kind of home exposure. Of course we are very comfortable playing in the UAE and we thank our hosts for that but that element of playing in home conditions and in front of home crowds is what we miss the most.
PakPassion.net : What can the PCB do to improve domestic cricket in Pakistan?
Younis Khan : Without doubt the PCB can do many things to improve but my only concern is that we seem to change our system a lot. The tragedy in our system is that once a change is brought in it seems to be modified very quickly in the next year. There is never any surety about what you will have in the next year which is worrying. Any change made to the domestic structure needs to be carefully considered before being implemented and then given a good few years before one can decide whether it has had the desired effect or not.
PakPassion.net : How important is to you as a player to play against India and how do you feel about the current issues related to this series?
Younis Khan : There aren’t too many rivalries in world cricket which can match the Indo-Pakistan rivalry in cricket. There is a reason why iconic series such as The Ashes are so popular around the world. These series involve two countries where there is a lot of history and the followers love to watch and feel the excitement associated with such series.
Yes, we don’t need to play each other if conditions don’t allow, but the fact is from the point of view of a player, that the pressure associated with such games makes or breaks players; there is no other way to describe it. This is a great opportunity for youngsters to learn and understand the pressures of playing in international cricket. If you look at my own career, when I toured in 2005 and scored 267 runs in the Bangalore Test, I was offered a top county contract as a result of that performance. In that way, whenever players perform well in such important series, their status in world cricket improves immensely, similar to what happens when a player performs well in the Ashes.
My personal view is that an India Pakistan series is important for this part of the world so that the cause of cricket is promoted and also given the amount of following for this game in the sub-continent, it is also great for the followers as well.
PakPassion.net : Given you are now part of the ODI squad for the Pakistan series against England, can you tell us why is it so important for you to play in this format of the game?
Younis Khan : Playing in ODIs is a matter of pride for me. I have achieved a lot in my career so far and I also lead the team to victory in the World T20 in 2009, but I left on my own accord from that format. My aim is to achieve and then move on. Whichever format it may be, whether Tests or ODIs, I want to achieve and then leave that format. This is my aim.
PakPassion.net : How long do you feel you can continue to play international cricket for? Do you have any aims in this regard?
Younis Khan : I am not the type of player who will make my decision based upon how things are going at that time. The only factors that will drive my decision will be my fitness and how my body is coping with the physical stresses and finally, how interested I am in the game at any point. As everyone knows, whether I am fielding or batting, I play the game with wholeheartedly and full interest. Obviously being one of the top players for Pakistan, my performance has to be on top as well and that will also be a driver for my decision. I will continue to play for Pakistan as long as I am fine with the three factors I have mentioned.
PakPassion.net : What was going through your mind in the final overs of the Abu Dhabi Test which ended due to bad light?
Younis Khan : The game was in the hands of the umpires and it is not the case of many years ago when teams could get away with time-wasting. We played the game according to the rules but the fact is that time would have always been an issue and everyone accepted that. In my view, there should have been a result in that game and it was a little tough on England. I do believe that despite our two nil win, the England Test team was very competitive throughout this series and what you saw in Abu Dhabi Test is something only England could have achieved against us.