Dubai: It’s perhaps because Younis Khan wears his superstar status so lightly on his shoulders that his achievement for Pakistan cricket does not often sink in easily. Apart from being the highest rungetter for a country in Tests which has a great lineage of tall-scoring batsmen, not many remember that Younis is only the second captain after Imran Khan to have won a ICC World Cup for Pakistan.
If scoring 10,999 runs with 34 centuries at an average of 52.05 was not enough, his Test career also boasts of six double centuries – which places him joint fifth in alltime list in the company of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Virender Sehwag, Marvan Atapattu and, of course, compatriot Javed Miandad.
The 2009 T20 World Cup which Pakistan won under the captaincy of Younis in England – a tournament where he was at the peak of his prowess – was another high in his career as it’s till date the second ICC World Cup for the green shirts after their 50-overs triumph under Imran in 1992. However, less than six months after that sensational triumph, he fell victim to the notoriously unpredictable ebb and tide of Pakistan cricket when he lost his captaincy due to a so-called coup of "six to seven seven players".
Looking back at that unsavoury episode, Younis felt that he had to eventually lose the captaincy for speaking the truth. Speaking to Gulf News in a freewheeling interview from Karachi, the enigmatic character, 42, said: "You often face a situation in life where if you speak the truth, you are considered as a mad man. My fault was pointing out to a group of players that they were not pushing themselves hard enough on the field for the country.
"The players were, however, regretful later and we played for teammates long enough after that. I knew I had done nothing wrong for it’s a lesson that I had learnt from my father – to always speak the truth and always remain humble," Younis said.
A hallmark of Younis’ art of batting – much like the legendary Miandad – was his patience and putting a price on his wicket. Asked what would be his advice for the batsmen of present generation to play the long innings, Younis replied in Miandad’s words: "During my playing days, I had Miandad as a coach. As someone who was a master of the big hundreds himself, he used to tell me that once you reach 100, think you are starting from zero. This may sound like a cliche but it’s quite a difficult thing to do as it needs a great deal of mental fitness – alongwith physical fitness."
Asked about the often brittle nature of Pakistan batting in recent years, Younis says the team has no true batting icons to look forward to now. "If you look at Indian cricket, you will see that when the likes of Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma were coming up, (Sachin) Tendulkar was still around. You can learn a lot from watching how a great batsman prepares himself for an innings," said Younis, who signed off from international arena alongwith Misbah-ul Haq in 2017.
Unlike the most of retired professionals who are often given to criticism of the contemporary cricketers, Younis feels that the job of the current crop of top batsmen are becoming harder by the day. "The rival teams are constantly analysing the video footage of the likes of Virat, Rohit or a (Steve) Smith. They keep track of which batsman can have a lapse of concentration once getting into his fifties or sixties…and it’s to the credit of these batsmen that they can still build their innings.
"It takes a lot of strength of character to perform consistently at this level. I tried to focus on this need of building a strong character during a virtual workshop for the Pakistan batsmen where the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) wanted me to speak recently. I am happy to note that someone like Babar Azam has said he benefitted from it," he said.
While his exploits in Test cricket are quite well documented, Younis was also a pillar of the middle order of Pakistan’s white ball cricket for long – scoring 7,249 runs from 265 ODIs. When informed about a recent tweet by former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly, addressed to Tendulkar that they would have scored at least 4,000 more runs in the opening partnership if ODIs were then played with two new balls like today, Younis agreed and felt he could have reached "at least 10,000-mark" in this format as well.
"Yes, I think I could have added a good 3,000-plus runs easily with two new balls during the innings and the current power play rules. And if we could do that, just imagine what someone like Viv Richards could have done," he said, breaking into a characteristic hearty laugh.
Now that Pakistan has taken the bold move of hosting the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in full there, alongwith some international cricket, Younis must be surely a happy man. However, Younis tried to put things into perspective from a player’s point of view and felt that the PCB should still divide their international cricket between Pakistan and the UAE.
"Please appreciate the fact that the cricketers should be in a free state of mind to play good cricket – and they cannot be asked to stay in their rooms all the time (for security). I would suggest that Pakistan team can play their Tests at home – so that the upcoming players can learn the finer points of the game – while the shorter formats can be played in the UAE," he felt.
Finally, Younis admits that he is still a romantic who wants to see the resumption of bi-lateral cricketing ties between India and Pakistan. "The matches between these two countries have given me some of the best experiences of my career. I will never forget the roar from the crowd when the Pakistan team got down from the bus at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2005," he signed off.
YOUNIS KHAN IN FIGURES
Tests: 118, Runs: 10099, Centuries: 34; Double centuries: 6; Highest score: 313; Average 52.12
ODIs: 265, Runs: 7249; Centuries: 7; Highest score: 144; Average 31.24
T20s: 25; Runs: 442; Highest score: 51; Average: 22.10