Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Story of Younis Khan (Part-2)

Younis Khan controversy

The next afternoon, a couple of days before Eid, Younis was at the studios of Geo TV on II Chundrigar Road, a central Karachi avenue on - and around - which reside the country's main business and media houses. Blue skies are great, but when the July clouds appear, as they had on this day, they bring out a truer sense of Karachi; older buildings, otherwise inconspicuous, stand accentuated; trees appear greener; roads stretch out confidently, as if breaking out from the tyranny the sun has kept them under. I trust Karachi under clouds; sunny days do not suit its disposition.

Younis was at the studios to record an interview with Yahya Hussaini. I had arranged to meet Younis there and we chatted during and around his interview. He told me that while washing his car that morning, he had considered turning up at my house unannounced and starting our interview there. But, he said, he had too much on and wasn't sure how I would react. I wasn't sure either.

Hussaini has the razor-sharp instincts of a tabloid journalist, especially expert at imagining smouldering but inconsequential tiffs into great-balls-of-fire disputes. He can smell an aggrieved player a mile away and turn him into the day's major news. Cricketers understand this; a player who complains to him is far likelier to be heard and noticed.

I sat down in the production room to watch the recording, thinking it would be in the mode of the previous evening's felicitations, part of a loosely organised PR whirl. I was with Saqib, who is well known to anyone who knows Younis as The Guy Who Always Knows Where Younis Is. He is impassive by nature and appearance, though you can't miss the almost permanent look of resignation on his face. He has a job, a surname and a life outside work, but I know nothing about those. I like him. He looks like someone who will not screw you over.

Hussaini's interview began promisingly. Younis recalled the February day in 2000 that confirmed his Pakistan selection - a side game against Sri Lanka at the UBL ground, a 45-minute drive away from the studio where we were sitting. The PCB XI was first bowled out for 48 on a damp pitch (from unexpected rain) and lost the 50-over match (Younis made 3). A 25-over exhibition game was hurriedly arranged in which Younis hit 68 off 58 balls. I expected more of this memoirish tone through the interview.

Hussaini did not. For him, the highlights of a 15-year career were simply too many for this show, so they would concentrate on some of the complaints and grievances of that career. First up, the palaver over the 2015 World Cup and Younis' place within it. Now in the big picture of Younis Khan, his awkward 50-over career and fade is hardly the headline. Yet less than five minutes in, this naked flame was coming hard at the fuel.

It's worth lingering on this because it documents the mood Younis was in at the time and the mood he has been in for some time. You could argue it is more than a mood - a trait, maybe, without which he would not be what he is.

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