It was the summer of 2009 and it seemed that Younis Khan was on the top of the world. He had just skippered Pakistan to one of their most memorable triumphs – a title-winning victory at the ICC World Twenty20 Championship at Lord’s. The senior batsman, then 31, was hailed as a national hero and even drew comparisons with the great Imran Khan. After all, Younis had become only the second Pakistani captain to lead the national team to a world title. At that time, it seemed certain that Younis would continue as Pakistan’s long-term captain. He was batting well and was leading the team from the front. Then the players, too, were fully backing him and the entire team came across as a single unit ready to give its best for Pakistan.
But looks can be highly deceptive especially when it comes to Pakistan cricket.
Within weeks, Younis lost captaincy and was soon ousted from Pakistan’s one-day squad. There was a time when national selectors thought about discarding him from the Test squad as well.
It was clearly an unwise move. Younis is easily one of the most prolific batsmen Pakistan has even produced. He is one of the rare Pakistanis to enjoy a Test batting average of more than 50. The Mardan-born Younis has piled up 7399 runs in Tests at 51.38. He also amassed over 7000 runs in One-day Internationals. He is one the best fielders in the national cricket team. They said, he was old but Younis was still in his early thirties when a decision was almost made to discard him.
But thankfully better sense has prevailed. Younis is back in fray for Pakistan and is now eyeing to make an ODI return with next year’s World Cup in mind.
Pakistan certainly need him for the all-important assignment. How can a team that has a perennial problem with its batting line-up afford to overlook a classy and reliable batsman like Younis?
Younis, who last played an ODI in March 2013, is confident that he can deliver the goods for Pakistan at the World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand.
“Whatever format I played I always tried to give my best,” Younis told reporters at the sidelines of a training camp under progress at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore. “But I don’t have a long-term goal that I want to play the 2015 or 2019 World Cup, my desire is to play as much cricket and keep up my role-model performance. A player like me, who has played 14-15 years of top cricket and played all forms of cricket, his career shouldn’t be ended like being classified as only a Test player.”
He wants to quit on his own terms.
“My desire is to walk away on my own conditions, playing in every form of game I am available to play, rather than being dropped. I obviously want commit myself to playing ODIs and whenever I get a chance I surely would like to grab the opportunity to play the World Cup,” he said.
“I might play for the next 10 years, but it’s all about time and hunger for the game,” he added. “I am almost in the fourteenth year of my career and it’s very difficult to maintain your top performance playing at top level. After all, we are human and we can’t maintain the much needed consistency, and sometime you lose interest.
“Such camps actually are very important to know yourself inside out – understand where you stand, what is the fitness level and how much we need to improve. It is good to get a window in international cricket. We unfortunately have lost the home advantage and mostly are on tours, hence no time for such extensive camps. So I took the opportunity to get myself tuned.”
Over the year, Younis has proved as an asset for Pakistan cricket. And with the sort of fitness and commitment he has shown during the training camp, it is quite clear that deserves a place in the national team. One hopes that he makes the cut for next year’s World Cup.