Dubai: It is not the easiest of jobs to get Mohammad Yousuf, one of the most prolific middle order batsmen to have ever played for Pakistan, talking. However, the reluctant hero of Pakistan batting sounded quite upbeat about his country’s chances in the three-Test series against England, beginning at the Old Trafford on Wednesday.
‘‘Pakistan enjoy a good record among the sub-continent nations against England. The team is a good combination of youth and experience and there is no reason why they cannot do well,’’ said Yousuf, a former Pakistan captain.
A batsman known for his penchant for playing the long innings and an owner of 24 Test centuries, Yousuf said there is very little to choose from between the two teams - with both comprising of quality fast bowling line-ups but rather mediocre batting line-ups to boot. Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview from Lahore - Yousuf, formerly Yousuf Youhana till he converted to Islam in 2005, said: ‘‘I don’t think you can really predict anything, more so in a three-Test series. Who thought that West Indies will win the first Test against England, though they eventually lost the series.’’
Looking ahead at the series, Yousuf felt that there should be no excuses for Azhar Ali’s men as the safety protocols against COVID-19 meant that the squad has now got enough time to acclimatise themselves to the conditions in Endland. ‘‘They have played a number of four-day matches where Azhar, Mohammad Rizwan have got runs. Youngsters Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi have been excelling in the bowling department and they should be able to carry the fight to the English camp,’’ said Yousuf, who has represented Pakistan in all three formats of the game with distinction.
I don’t think you can really predict anything, more so in a three-Test series. Who thought that West Indies will win the first Test against England, though they eventually lost the series
The last Pakistan-England series ended at 1-1 - a piece of statistic which should give heart to the Pakistan team. Asked if the visitors’ batting line-up is overtly reliant on Babar Azam, arguably the team’s best batsman who is being spoken in the same breath as a Virat Kohli or Kane Williamson and captain Azhar, Yousuf did not quite subscribe to the theory. ‘‘The likes of Shan Masood and Asad Shafiq have been also in decent form in the last two to three months and should help the team put enough runs on the board,’’ he said.
Asked if he endorsed the recent ban on pace bowlers from using saliva by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the wake of COVID-19 crisis, Yousuf showed his empathy for thw bowlers’ fraternity: ‘‘It’s definitely another problem for the bowlers as it will definitely hinder the new ball operators from derviing swing. The game has been, especially over the last eight years, tilted in favour of the batsmen and this is going to be another blow.’’
Talking about the future roadmap of Pakistan cricket, Yousuf endorsed the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) decision to stage the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in full at home as well as bringing international cricket back to the country. ‘‘Pakistan has now proved themselves as a safe venue for hosting Test matches. This will enable kids, who are growing up playing cricket, see their heroes from close quarters again,’’ he signed off.