Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Story of Younis Khan (Part-3)

Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq

Younis' World Cup had become an unwitting homage to his ODI career: in and out of the XI, prompting questions about whether he should have been there at all, shuffled around the order, and no outstanding performance in three games. In 2013 he had been dropped from the ODI plans, seemingly permanently, and replaced by younger batsmen. It became a wound, which grew as he was dropped one game into a recall a year later. After that he asked the selectors whether "a player like me should shoot myself?" Their response, presumably to avoid culpability in suicide, was to bring him back into their World Cup plans.

At the World Cup, Younis began with 6 and 0 against India and West Indies, both heavy losses. He was then dropped for the next two games. "If you were captain instead of Misbah, would you have picked Younis Khan in the next match [after the West Indies loss]?" Hussaini asked. Younis said yes, ignoring the longer sequence of which these poor numbers were a part: since the start of 2013, he had nine scores of ten or less in 17 ODIs and just one over 50, a 103 against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.

What now of your ODI future? Nothing, said Younis, bemused, I still have one. Did I run badly? Do I field badly? Would I not have performed better than some younger players, he asked. (Not really: of the 18 batsmen, Nos. 1 to 6, who have played ten or more ODIs since the 2011 World Cup for Pakistan, Younis' average is 14th on the list.)

Hussaini moved to Sri Lanka, not to the century but to calls for Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq to retire after the loss in the second Test. This was a major exaggeration. Only Asif Iqbal said it, and in the hierarchy of sniping former cricketers, Asif Iqbal is pretty low. If there were others, they were not important enough for history to note and band together as a movement. Younis ignored Hussaini's lit match, and next to it started his own fire.

"One thing I want to make clear here," Younis said. "Don't compare me to Misbah-ul-Haq. I've been playing cricket for a long time. But I have big performances, a lot of them, everywhere. I'm the only Pakistani with hundreds against every country. My style is also not like Misbah-ul-Haq. So please. I'm also four years younger than him. Everyone knows my style also, I am of an aggressive frame of mind. [Cut to a shot of Hussaini giggling heartily, as if at some in-joke.] The kind of player that he is, the kind of person he is, that is in front of everyone. So please don't compare me."

His expression oscillated between being offended by the thought of the comparison, and being bewildered by it, like why compare an apple to an orange in the first place? It never occurred to him that nobody, not even Hussaini, was actually comparing, just grouping them for the purposes of a question about the two oldest batsmen in the Test side, which they are.

Hussaini had his headline and, exultant, immediately aimed for another. Playing on names, he asked whether batsman Younis and coach Waqar Younis were on the same wavelength. Who knows what might have happened had he not scored in Pallekele, Younis said. He smiled his way through that, and because there is no such thing as a fake Younis smile, it is often difficult to know how to read such responses. Separately he told me that the amount of pressure he felt from team management, having gone five innings without a fifty, "Aap ki soch hai" [You can only imagine]. It is one of his favourite phrases.

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