Younis Khan: Calmly, coolly pocketing ten grand!

When Younis Khan bows out of the game at the end of the series in the West Indies, a glorious chapter in correct batsmanship would come to an end.

This combination of pictures shows Pakistan batsman Younis Khan celebrating after reaching his 10,000th Test run, on day three of the first Test match between West Indies and Pakistan at the Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 23, 2017. Younis became the first Pakistani to reach the 10,000 Test run landmark.   -  AFP

He set high standards for himself, the demands always exacting. For Younis Khan, cricket was more than a way of life. For someone who took pride in admitting that Rahul Dravid shaped his career with some priceless inputs at various stages, Younis was always a friendly foe during India-Pakistan clashes. Younis respected the opponents and they reciprocated his feelings.

I vividly remember sitting with Dravid at the end of an ODI series in his hotel room in Delhi. It was 2005 and India had lost the series 2-4. Younis dropped in to say “goodbye.” Dravid responded with a hug and obliged Younis’ request for one of his bats. The smile on the Pakistani batsman’s face radiated his admiration for Dravid. It must be said that Younis, who retires at the end of the current series against the West Indies, is perhaps the last of the traditionalists to have graced the game.

Humble to a fault, Younis, by becoming the first Pakistan batsman to scale the 10000-run peak, only confirmed his potential. He began the year with a sensational 175 not out against Australia at Sydney. He got out for a dismal 13 in the second innings. If only he had scored 23 more runs Younis would have reached the 10000-mark. It was only his first century on Australian soil. “I had always wanted to score a century in Australia. I am glad I could do it,” he said at the end of the innings.

Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid (left) and Pakistan vice-captain Younis Khan holding the Hutch Cup for the ODI series between the two teams after unveiling it at a press conference in Karachi on February 03, 2006. Younis has a great regard for Dravid.   -  S. SUBRAMANIUM

 

Younis accomplished the goal in Kingston. It was a much-deserved honour for a cricketer who served the game with distinction and dignity. “I like to perform for Pakistan,” he would often reply with his infectious smile. His 17-year career was embellished with many great moments but one that stood out came in Sri Lanka in July 2015.

Faced with a target of 377 on a deteriorating fifth day pitch at the Pallekele International Stadum, Pakistan, which finished the penultimate day at 230 for two, owed it to Younis. He resumed at 101 and finished the job in style as Pakistan won by seven wickets.

It was the highest target set by Sri Lanka for any opposition to chase and home skipper Angelo Mathews had every reason to back his bowlers to win the match. He had not reckoned with Younis. “We thought we had done enough to win that Test match. Defending 377 on a fifth day wicket, any captain would feel confident that he could win it. Younis had different plans. He started peppering us to all parts of the ground and took the game away from us. It was an unbelievable knock,” Mathews told a website.

The Sri Lankan gushed, “That’s the best knock that I have seen anyone playing against us. We had them 13 for two and were sure of winning, but Younis proved us wrong. He knew when to defend and when to accelerate and it was a master class. Great example of batting when under pressure.” True, Younis knew his art well. Little wonder he was rated as one of the top fourth-innings batsmen.

READ: Younis Khan in numbers

Younis was a man superbly composed at the crease. He backed himself to excel in all conditions. He was not a replica of Javed Miandad, who exuded the kind of confidence that no other batsman did in modern cricket, but Younis was a classic picture of a run-getter who knew his job extremely well. Unperturbed and supremely strong in temperament, Younis brought class to the middle and commanded a huge following with his brand of batsmanship.

One of the finest batsmen to have emerged from Pakistan, Younis was always game for a competition. “I’m a very aggressive person,” he remarked in one of his interviews. He was aggressive when it came to making runs, aggressive when it came to fashioning victories, but always displaying a calm exterior. The turmoil within was tamed with his fiercely brilliant batting, his range of shots derived and developed over the years. No wonder he had profuse praise for Brian Lara. “I like the way he looks to dominate,” Younis had said once.

There was elegance in his approach. When determined to come good at the crease, nothing could shake Younis’ resolve. He was so certain in his footwork and transferred that clarity to his performances. He was adept at reading the situation and often passed on the confidence to his partners who revelled under his shadow. Needless to add, Younis was a fearless cricketer who took pride in guiding youngsters by setting examples.

Younis has seen the ups and downs of Pakistan cricket, handled controversies with rare poise, shepherded young talent and emerged a father figure to many. It is no secret that he was more delighted when the young guns fired, always backing them to shine. This selfless attitude saw Younis create a legion of followers around the world.

When Younis bows out of the game at the end of the series in the West Indies, a glorious chapter in correct batsmanship would come to an end. It was a delight to watch this rock solid batsman take on the fastest bowlers with flair and courage. The 39-year-old Younis symbolised tenacity on the cricket field. A batsman who played the game on his terms and a veteran who called it a day when he still had enough cricket left in him. The cricket world salutes one of its best students, a rare gentleman player in these times of crass commercialism.

The elder statesmen
  • Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan are not just Pakistan’s huge pillars of batting; they are icons who have given Pakistan its unique identity in this decade. Of course, they are professional batsmen first and foremost, and their contributions in terms of runs have been expectedly bulky. Younis possesses the better stats among the two; his quality marked out by his longer Test career — it will be 118 Tests to Misbah’s 75 at the end of the series against West Indies.
  • But if Pakistan has bloomed in Tests in the past, Misbah and Younis have been instrumental in that rise. Misbah and Younis are batting architects of the formidable fortress Pakistan has built in its adopted home in the United Arab Emirates. The two form the highest-scoring pair of all time for their country — with 3205 runs at an average of almost 70. Twenty-two of the 52 partnerships they have had together have yielded at least 50 runs. The conversion rate is good too — with 15 hundred-run partnerships and seven fifty-run partnerships.
  • They are eminent authorities of Test match batting. How effective have they been? The team has won series after series encountering minor speed-breakers on the way. Under Misbah, Pakistan won five of its first seven series, before reverses in Sri Lanka and South Africa in the 2012-13 season.
  • Barring the five Test losses in a row leading up to the series against West Indies — with series losses in New Zealand and Australia — Pakistan has had an almost unbeatable aura. The recent rot in Oceania was stemmed promptly by the resilience of the familiar men — Misbah and Younis — both of whom pitched in with meaningful contributions with the bat for a handy first-innings lead that paved the way for a seven-wicket victory in Kingston recently.
  • The team was undefeated in 2015. It would have ensured a defeat-free 2014 as well had it perhaps not been for the presence of another solid pair in Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara for Sri Lanka. As it turned out, Sri Lanka was hurt by Jayawardene’s retirement, and Pakistan promptly turned the tables next year.
  • Besides resolute batting, Misbah and Younis have another aspect in common as cricketers — fitness. By far the oldest members of their side last year — Misbah was 41 and Younis was 38 — they were classified as the fittest members, after an official fitness Test was conducted under the aegis of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Younis, the seemingly perennial slip-fielder, has taken 133 catches in his career — the 14th best. He takes 0.612 catches per innings, a statistic better than five of those above him in the list.
  • However, besides the obvious cricketing expertise, the two have given a psychological boost to their side’s other members with capable leadership and mentoring. The fuss-free attitude of the current side that has given it stability and success has been developed, at least in part, by the shepherding act of the duo. Much credit has to go to them for taking their team to the No. 1 spot in the rankings last year, fighting the odds of the Indian Premier League exclusion and the complete evaporation of international cricket in their country.
  • Pakistan looked messy when it was plagued by the spot-fixing scandal of 2010. That it emerged out of it in such a positive fashion was largely courtesy of the presence of these two men at the centre of its rebuilding efforts. — Abhishek Mukherjee