Younis Khan: A batting colossus

Pakistan have some really talented players, but having an experienced guy like Younis Khan in the engine room of the batting order is a great boost for them. He has been a great servant of the game and deserves the highest respect. All Pakistan fans, and all genuine cricket lovers, must savour this twilight period of his career before he finally hangs up his boots.

Younis Khan is inching closer to the 10,000 Test runs club.   -  AP

Younis Khan burst back into top form in the final Test against England with a magnificent 218. Like many of Younis Khan’s best innings over his 16-year international career, it helped power Pakistan towards victory and in the process level the series. The result was really deserved for Pakistan as I thought they battled England hard throughout the series and showed a lot of spirit and skill.

 

For cricket fans it was a reminder that Younis has been the most prolific Pakistani batsman of his generation and, now nearing his 39th birthday, he is closing in on becoming the 13th batsman in history to join the 10,000 Test runs club. He is already the highest-scoring Pakistan batsman, having passed two other greats, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Javed Miandad.

His overall numbers are excellent, but dig a little deeper and you’ll also notice just how consistent he has been: in 10 of the past 11 years (excluding 2016) he has averaged over 50 and in many cases closer to 60. Sustaining that level of excellence over such a long period is sensational.

During the first three Tests against England, Younis got some starts with scores of 33, 25, 1, 28, 31 and 4, but he was far from his best. When I bumped into the Pakistan management team at the Grange Hotel in London a few weeks ago they were focused on helping him get back to his best. For me he was moving around a little too much and in English conditions that’s dangerous. In the fourth Test he was still and that worked much better for him.

That innings was a typical Younis Khan knock as he was very aggressive and scored his runs at a very healthy pace. All runs matter, but quick runs change matches and for the past decade Younis Khan’s best innings have been game-changing, grabbing the initiative for Pakistan.

We obviously played against each other many times and he was always a very tough opponent for us. Like most great Asian batsmen, he is particularly strong against the spinners, sweeping well and using his feet. Our spinners, even the legend Murali, would struggle to contain him and his scalp was highly prized. If you failed to get him early, he punished you with a big hundred, like all really good batsmen do.

While he was a tough opponent on the field, he was always an amicable and friendly person off the field. I don’t know him that well but we have had lots of friendly conversations over the years. I am not sure about his relationships in the Pakistan dressing room over the years because his captaincy stints were difficult at times, but I think he enjoys just being a senior player and having the responsibility of scoring runs rather than leading.

While his Test record is exceptional, his ODI career has been a mixed bag. My feeling is that he has not been managed well in terms of ODI cricket because he should really have been a prolific ODI run-scorer too. Although he has played 265 matches, he seems to have been in and out of the team quite a lot. Also, he has been shunted up and down the order over the years and not really given the kind of stability that you want your best players to get.

Hopefully, this 218 against England will help him in the current ODI series and also power him on for another year or so for Pakistan. They have some really talented players, but having an experienced guy like Younis in the engine room of the batting order is a great boost for them. He has been a great servant of the game and deserves the highest respect. All Pakistan fans, and all genuine cricket lovers, must savour this twilight period of his career before he finally hangs up his boots.