Its downright difficult to imagine a father figure in the Pakistan cricket team. Most fingers would point towards Misbah UlHaq, who as a father, would not keep his children playing after Maghrib and restrict television and Cola to weekends only. Adding to that, he would be much loved and respected, and have taught his kids the golden rule of life, when the going gets tough, get on the backfoot and wear down the storm.
A second father figure would be Shahid Afridi, who would let his kids play till Fajr and would tell off someone who demanded compensation if his window was broken whilst the kids play cricket. Much loved and respected also because of just simply the fear he puts in people, but in addition to what he taught his children. Always dance down the problem and give it your full, because people really like that and you’ll always have another chance.
We always count Misbah and Afridi as one though, because they always take up the most space on newspapers and blogs and such. So effectually, the second father figure to emerge is not Mohammed Hafeez or Kamran Akmal, but a man of much more conservative nature. As Saad Shafqat says of him, his nature is to be inward-looking and intensely focused, quietly fighting his way through. In a rare combination of the Misbah and Afridi extremes, Younus Khan is brought out to be the one who teaches his protégé to look increasingly subdued and defeated, when in reality hacking away at foes with overbearing tenacity, aided with a friend who they show the light.
While both are loved, albeit unequally, both have vile critics, again unequally though. Misbah and Afridi give steady answers with both their performance and words, but the second, Younus, relies only on his bat. It happens with both that the performance may tank, as is nature, but only one resurfaces. Afridi and Misbah have garnered the support from all, but Younus only relies on the support from the purists and third-rate fans like me. It’s perhaps because that he doesn’t speak up or against, causing controversy every step, that most disregard him.
Statistics, sometimes unfairly, lay the groundwork in determining the who’s who in sport. In his last 10 One-day Internationals, Younus has a poor average of 21.22, while Misbah and Afridi have 41.85 and 30.00 respectively. One would immediately discount Younus from a limited overs squad looking at this statistic only, especially arguing the fact that an all-rounder has been better than him. It would do well to see who were the last teams that the trio played against. Younus played against South Africa and India at their turf, while Misbah and Afridi faced Sri Lanka in the UAE and then played the Asia Cup.
Younus could have perhaps benefited from playing in conditions known to him and again relished playing in a tournament. Younus is particularly buoyant when teams gather. Captaining Pakistan to victory in the 2009 World Twenty20 and then leading them to a perhaps unfortunate semi-final in the Champions Trophy a few months after that, which ended his captaincy stint and almost looked like ending his career. One does have the most runs in the most recent Twenty20 domestic tournament as well.
I’ve always felt that Younus has led many players, both young and old, both raw and professional, into the best display of batting they’ve ever accomplished. Take for example, Nasir Jamshed. I’ve often said that his 101* at Chennai against India last year was very painful to watch, but, during a stand with Younus he played some delightful strokes. When Younus got out, Jamshed again looked out of all sorts. Again while captaining Pakistan on a Test tour to Sri Lanka, he motivated Fawad Alam who passed 150 on debut. Younus-Yousuf stands are also a bit of a cult legend. This could only be my opinion, but Younus makes everyone look good.
Whatever some people might say, it is almost an undeniable fact that experience counts, and Younus Khan has bucketfuls. I believe his recent call of ending his career on his own terms is something to be celebrated. It shows that the man still wants to fight, which he can and more often than not has. With 36 players training in the Lahore sun, most of them nervy youngsters, all have Australia and New Zealand on their mind, and a will to be selected. Younus deserves the honour.