Thirty-six minutes of a press conference is a pretty long time to be enthralled by not one, but two resolute Pakistani batsmen. Especially since it was a contrast of sorts.
Younis Khan, veteran batsman and now holder of three records comprising the following – the first Pakistani player to score 26 Test hundreds, the seventh Pakistani to score 100 in each innings of a Test match and the first player in 40 years, to score two 100s in a Test against Australia. Sitting assuredly next to him, on the dais, was the new torchbearer of runs, Ahmad Shahzad – now holding two Test tons, both beautifully scored on UAE shores.
When informed that Australian captain Michael Clarke had described him as a ‘true gentleman of the game,’ Khan typically downplayed it, saying he’d always tried to be polite to opponents.
Shahzad on the other hand, was expectedly more forthright. ‘The chicken-hearted do not go far against Australia. They do not give you runs easily, so fitness and self-belief are important.’
What is telling, are the prudent words of advice Younis Khan had given Ahmad Shahzad the night before. Khan had said ‘I have waited 12 years for a Test ton against Australia, do not do the same.’
Within these words, lies the dichotomy that is currently Pakistani cricket. Sensible senior captain Misbah ul Haq, all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez, bowling all-rounder Shahid Afridi and senior batsman Younis Khan comprise a quartet who are all assumedly approaching the last legs of their careers.
Ahmad Shahzad is one of the front-runners of a new crop of young players all fighting for their place in a set-up constantly ridiculed in the press for poor management, in-fighting, political intrigue and incompetent selection.
Yet observing the dynamics between the two at the fourth day’s press conference, one could be forgiven for being hopeful. Younis Khan epitomises the gallantry of old, thoughtful and modest in his answers. Shahzad emobodies the cricket of the modern age, driven, accelerated and as he rightfully put it, not for the faint-hearted.
Notwithstanding doomsayers’ predictions or the PCB’s leadership struggles over the past year, this Test match has shown there is a positive way forward for Pakistani cricket.