Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Story of Younis Khan (Part-11)

Younis Khan

Why fight? As we drove along to a hospital in Karachi where he was due to make an appearance, I asked this of Younis. He was sitting, I couldn't help but think, in stiff defiance of the space offered in the back seat of my Suzuki Liana, squeezed awkwardly in the corner against the door. His face must have made the shortlist for Mount Rushmore, so patently is it carved out of granite. And if his eyes were bigger, their indeterminate colour and translucence would make their beauty obvious and undeniable, but they are small and deep-set, hidden within a protruding face.

His outburst to Hussaini about Misbah had caught me off guard. I thought the two got on, as guiding older lights in a progressing side. In a previous interview in 2012, in fact, Younis had only unconditional praise for Misbah. Marriage is one kind of union, as is wartime camaraderie, but 14 century stands? You'd have to have a deep bond with someone to do that right?

Why was Younis fighting now, during the best days of his career, and with Misbah, with whom he had wrought so much success and who is so passive he could make peace break out in the Middle East? And though the question may have been prompted by this episode, I really meant it to apply to his entire career: why do you fight?

"Look, at some point it has to be done, right?" he began, slowing down to emphasise the point he was making, his mouth stretching to accommodate each word, much in the unusual fashion his body does to play shots. The "it" in question, I quickly gathered, meant a general righting of the system. "Somebody has to do it, so why shouldn't I? I tried to do things differently, but I achieved something, right? The 2009 World T20 title, with the same captaincy and the same team.

"But what I couldn't learn, which is in the system, is 'wait and see'. That is why when I became captain, I didn't do what a lot of captains do - 'wait and see'. That is why, with my captaincy, I couldn't grow properly in this system. I said, when you have to do one thing and if it is a good thing, then you have to do it. You can't say, 'Okay, wait, we'll look at it tomorrow.' In this system where Pakistan stands right now, you see… this is why, 60 years later, even now, we are doing mobile registration [he was referring to a belated campaign to register every SIM card in the country]. That is what we are doing, right? Today. This year. In other countries how long has this already been in place?

"If you look at many people now, they survive because they don't do anything. Pakistan is the only country where your survival is good, or you last so long because you don't do anything. Keep going, with your job. What's that Nana Patekar movie? Yeshwant, I think, in which he says, 'I will not say anything now, I will stay quiet. My house, my kids, my money, whatever is happening is happening.'

"It doesn't make a difference to me if I win or lose in the fight. But at least, when tomorrow my children say to me, 'Baba, you talk so big, what did you do?' at least I can say to them, 'When I was made captain, in trying to change things I got kicked out and got a life ban.'

" At this point, it occurred to me that Misbah's legacy, as the most successful Test captain in Pakistan's history while being a man who doesn't fight, a man of the system who does wait and see - it occurred to me that this reality might be eating away at Younis. How could such a man, who doesn't even fight for selections let alone resign over them, be so successful? I put this theory to Younis in as roundabout and delicate a way as I could. He either missed the point or chose to ignore it, but cited Misbah's public and post-hoc unhappiness with the team he was given for the World Cup. Months later, in Dubai, I asked Misbah about Younis' TV comments. He was unconcerned: happens, great player, doesn't matter - exactly the non-confrontational response that might wind up Younis even more.

This period has become a slightly gauche coda to Younis' career. I can't make total sense of the self-congratulatory celebrations surrounding his breaking Miandad's record. There was another felicitation in Dubai when he finally went past it. Yahya Hussaini was the MC.

One way to understand it, or at least frame it within some kind of broader reference, could be through two Miandad anecdotes. When Inzamam came out to bat in his final innings, at the Gaddafi Stadium, he needed six runs to go past Miandad's aggregate. Saad Shafqat, who ghosted Miandad's autobiography and reads the great man's moods expertly, had called him the day before. He wanted to know how Miandad was feeling about his record being broken.

"I'm not bothered," Miandad said.

The next day when Inzamam fell short, Shafqat called Miandad again. Yes, he had seen the dismissal, and no, he didn't get the fuss. "Even if Inzamam had broken my record, he still wouldn't have become Miandad."

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