Younis Khan: Pakistan’s batting spine!

If one thinks of batsmen who have stood the test of time, Younis' name would feature quite prominently. Since making his debut against Sri Lanka in 2000 at home, Younis has played all over the world with immense success; but more importantly he has played a crucial role in stabilising Pakistan's often volatile batting line-up.

Younis Khan... Pakistan's highest Test-scorer now.   -  REUTERS

Cricket has always favoured batsmen through the ages. The team that scores the most runs at the end of the day usually wins the match. Very rarely do we get to see bowlers match up to the ravages of the batsmen’s willow and drown them in ducks and blobs. However, there are those batsmen who succeed with such regularity that one feels they would find success even if the game had been stacked in favour of the bowlers.

Younis Khan is one such batsman. If one thinks of batsmen who have stood the test of time, Younis' name would feature quite prominently. Since making his debut against Sri Lanka in 2000 at home, Younis has played all over the world with immense success; but more importantly he has played a crucial role in stabilising Pakistan's often volatile batting line-up.

Recently, Younis surpassed Javed Miandad as the leading run-scorer in Tests for Pakistan. It is not just the number of runs either; his current batting average of 54.31 is the highest among all Pakistani batsmen with at least 1,000 runs. All these numbers look attractive on paper. However, Younis’ main contribution to Pakistan cricket has come in the last six years. Younis, along with Misbah-ul-Haq, has seen international cricket move out of Pakistan. After the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, other boards decided to boycott Pakistan. At that time, Younis was the captain of the team, an ambassador to many young cricketers in the country.

More Tests abroad

Unlike Miandad and Inzamam, Younis did not have the luxury of playing as much of Test cricket at home as his predecessors had. Out of the 103 Tests Younis has featured in, he has played only 19 matches (only 18.44 per cent) at home. Miandad, who has played 124 Tests, figured in 60 Tests at home, which is 48.38 per cent. Out of his 8,832 Test runs, he scored 4,481 runs at home, which means almost 51 per cent of his runs came at home. Likewise, even Inzamam played 40 per cent of his Tests at home.

If one is to consider UAE as Pakistan’s home, Younis’ average in Tests in away conditions is still excellent: 51.95. This means that 53.26 per cent of his runs have come in away from home and adopted home.

When Miandad made his debut, he had the likes of Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq Mohammad, Imran Khan and Sadiq Mohammad in the side. Over the years, throughout his playing days, he had a strong batting support in the likes of Mudassar Nazar, Asif Iqbal, Saleem Malik, Ijaz Ahmed, Aamer Sohail and Rameez Raja.

As for Inzamam, he had the support of Sohail, Raja, Miandad, Malik, Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Saeed Anwar, Yousuf Youhana (later Mohammad Yousuf), Mohammad Hafeez, Younis himself and Misbah.

Most experienced player

However, for Younis, the current team’s batting has not been as glittery and consistent as it has been for his predecessors. Pakistan’s batting has undergone a lot of transition since the time he made his debut. Younis is the most experienced player in the side; even Misbah and Shoaib Malik are relatively less experienced than Younis despite being of a similar age.

Moreover, Pakistan during Miandad and Inzamam’s eras had world-class bowlers such as Imran, Akram, Waqar Younis and later on Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, and Umar Gul.

However, Younis hardly had pacers who could support their batsmen consistently — Rahat Ali, Imran Khan (the younger one, who made his debut in 2014), Ehsan Adil, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz are a far cry from Pakistan's heyday of pace bowling. Wahab and Junaid have been a support in dire times, but they have been more successful in the 50-over format than Tests.

The anchor

When Pakistan’s top-order stumbled and tottered, it has been Younis who anchored the innings for Misbah and team. Younis’ contribution to Pakistan cricket has not been only about runs but about being an icon to a country infested by internal turmoil and fickle external allies.

When Pakistan were almost on the verge of losing in the group stages in the 2009 World T20, it was Younis who led the team to a title triumph along with the support of senior players like Shahid Afridi. Even after the win, Younis did not forget to remember Bob Woolmer, who died mysteriously two years prior to that, when Pakistan were left reeling in the 2007 World Cup.

Younis’ outspoken attitude may have landed in him in trouble over time, but that same attitude has pushed him to where he is today. When Wasim Akram suggested that Younis forget One-Day Internationals, his very approach to the game made him politely get back at Akram, reminding the former cricketer that he respected his opinion but did not need anyone’s advice at that point of his career. While people might brand him prejudiced, it is the very stance that has made the true ambassador of the ‘cornered tigers’ return to the ODI squad for the upcoming series against England.

Younis is what the Pakistan Cricket Board needs at the present stage: a fighter, leader, icon and custodian of the game in the country where many aspire to be like him. The legend from Mardan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan, a place which has been influenced by varied cultures in the past, is still as resolute as he was when he made his debut against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi all those years ago!

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