Younus Khan: A 22-year-old record broken in 22 seconds
In simple words, Younus Khan is a modern great. He now holds the record of most runs by a Pakistani Test batsman, has the most number of centuries, he has held the most catches by a Pakistani fielder and on top of all this, he has the best average among Pakistani batsman in Test cricket.
These records become more exclusive when mentioned in retrospect, because our team has boasted of the inclusion of players such as Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Saleem Malik, Inzamamul Haq, Saeed Anwar and Mohammad Yousuf.
Younus may not have the same elegance as Inzamam, he may not get under the skin of the opponent like Miandad and he definitely does not play the same silky smooth cover drives as Yousuf did. But Younus did not need any of this, he has his own style.
As soon as Younus comes on to the pitch to bat, he begins to hop and jump at the crease, then he begins to settle down by playing those famous back-foot cover drives. Eventually, he started taking charge of the spinners with those sixes over deep mid-wicket and then the occasional reverse sweeps. I feel it’s a pleasure to watch him play.
He plays cricket just like cricket should be played. He always seems proud to wear a Pakistani shirt, with that slight arrogance about him but with a smile on his face. He is a true team player, putting up a strong fight against the opposition, never getting bogged down by the pressure, and most of all, he takes pride in his team mates success.
Initially, it wasn’t easy for Younus since he made his debut when he was 22-years-old. Having to replace the injured Ijaz Ahmed, he had some big shoes to fill, which he managed to do. A smashing debut century against Sri Lanka proved that he had the potential to succeed at the international level. But due to the presence of senior players, he had to wait for more chances to prove his worth.
The passion and hunger for learning was always there though. He recalls how he used to carry kit bags of senior players on tour just to be around them and learn from them.
His next big breakthrough came during the first Test on the tour of New Zealand in 2000-01 where he scored a match winning 91 and 149 not out, an inning he rates as one of his best. It made him believe that he belonged in the team.
Chances kept coming his way and he took full advantage of them by scoring consistently.
Under Waqar Younis’s captaincy he became an important part of the Pakistani team but lost his place in spot in the team after Inzamam took over as captain after the World Cup in mid-2003 after which he barely got to play Test cricket in the following year.
Younus finally made his mark on the international scene during Pakistan’s tour of India in 2005. He was under serious pressure to score after the first Test match, during which he scored nine runs and one run. Following that, he scored a remarkable 147 in the next Test and finally, during the final Test match, with the series levelled at 1-1, he scored a brilliant 267, an inning that lasted for 11 hours and 30 minutes.
During the second innings of the final Test, he fired 84 runs, not out in the second innings to help Pakistan win a memorable series in India.
In 2005, he scored a century against West Indies on their turf, a place where he always seemed to struggle. In 2006, during India’s tour of Pakistan, he scored 199 and 194 in the first two Test matches and captained the team during the final Test match at Karachi, leading them to a memorable series victory.
Another brilliant inning of 173 against England at Leeds the same year cemented his credentials as one of the most important batsmen of Pakistan.
Younus kept his form intact when he scored two consecutive centuries against South Africa in 2007 and also scored another century against India at Kolkata.
He was named the captain of the Pakistani cricket team in 2009 during which he played his most memorable inning of 313, which is the third highest score by a Pakistani batsman in Test cricket. Although he fared well as a captain, especially in the shorter format, where he won the T20 World Cup for Pakistan, he could not stay at the post for long and after having several disagreements with the players and management, he stepped down from his captaincy and did not play for Pakistan for around one and a half year.
In October 2010, when Misbahul Haq was named the captain of Pakistan, Younus was reinstated into the team and he made his presence felt by scoring a match-saving 131 not out after batting the whole day at the Dubai Cricket Stadium against a challenging South African attack.
Free from captaincy worries, Younus started leading the team from the front as a senior batsman. Highlights of his career were when he helped Pakistan save the Sharjah Test match against Sri Lanka with his 122, a gritting match-winning century against England in Dubai, enabling Pakistan to whitewash the opposition, a match-winning double ton against Bangladesh in December 2011 and Zimbabwe in 2013, and scoring 111 against South Africa at Cape Town where Pakistan nearly won the match. Younus made his presence felt.
Perhaps the world started noticing the greatness of Younus in 2014 when he, while trying to prove that he can still be part of Pakistan’s limited-over squad for the World Cup, scored quick fired centuries in both innings against Australia in the first match. His first century made him a top century scorer for Pakistan while his second century of 103 not out scored at a strike rate of 67.76 showed that he can prove a point or two with his batting.
In the next Test he performed even better, a double century (213 runs of 349 balls) against Australia at a quick pace not only helped Pakistan clean sweep the Aussies but also helped him reach the milestone of 8000 Test runs for Pakistan, only the third Pakistani to achieve such a feat.
During an interview he said,
“I am just an ordinary player. Records aside, I want to bat for my country and records are not my best identity. I want to be recognised as a batsman that always played for his country.”
That’s when he publicly stated his desire to become the leading run scorer for Pakistan.
Younus inched closer to the Pakistani record of 8,832 runs scored by Miandad. A century against New Zealand in the very next match, and another one against Bangladesh in the next series closed the gap.
His performance in the recent series in Sri Lanka was not up to mark until the very last inning, and a few people started questioning his place in the team. Some were of the view that his career is nearing its end, but Younus, like always, answered his critics with the bat. A match winning 171 not out from just 271 balls, was a classic inning played with ease. He helped Pakistan chase a record target of 382 runs.
The first Test match against England was hyped up for different reasons, one of them being that he needed only 19 runs to break Miandad’s record. It happened when Younus, perhaps fittingly, came down the track to whack Moeen Ali over mid-wicket for his trademark six to become Pakistan’s leading run scorer.
A 22-year-old record broken in 22 seconds.
He did not display emotions as such; he just raised his bat with a slight smile on his face, maybe signalling to his critics that he is here to stay for a while longer. Within seconds he was ready to face the next ball. His inning lasted for just 38 runs, but that score had everything in it. A six and mid-wicket, a four through the covers, one from the reverse sweeps and also quick singles. It was a Younus-esque inning yet again.
People may argue over whom the greatest Pakistani batsman of all time is, everyone will come up with a different name, because honestly Pakistan has produced some world class players, but statistically speaking, he is the greatest Pakistani batsman ever and no one can take that away from him.
He is not satisfied yet. His next aim is to score 10,000 Test runs for Pakistan. He stated,
“In the list of top test batsmen, I see the names of Indians and Sri Lankans. I want to put my name in the list of cricketers who have scored 10,000 Test runs just like the way I completed 30 Test tons. Someday I might be satisfied with my goals and achievements but I am pushing myself for more. I believe in next the two years if I remain in the same mode I see myself bigger than this and would like to score 10,000 runs.”
If things go according to this plan, he will not only score 10,000 runs but he will also become the most capped Pakistani Test player.
Currently, he is the 15th highest run scorer in the world and he deserves this and will most probably achieve it as well. Because for all the troubles he has been through, be it losing his family members over the years while being away representing Pakistan or proving himself as a quality batsman, he has come out of tough situations stronger than ever to achieve his aims, that too, always with a smile on his face.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.