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Younis Khan: The smiling assassin and an appetite for big runs

Younis will walk into the sunset at the end of the 3-match Test series in West Indies at the age of 39

Pakistan
 Younis Khan of Pakistan Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Younis Khan has decided to call time on his glittering 17-year career announcing his decision in Karachi on Saturday. The veteran of 116 Test caps, along with his skipper Misbah – who announced his decision to retire two days ago, will walk into the sunset at the end of the West Indies tour next month. Pakistan will be left with a huge void to fill after their exit.

Younis statistically is the best batsman Pakistan has ever produced. He had this uncanny knack of getting big scores at the Test level. He will finish his career with more than 10,000 Test runs – given that he gets at least 23 runs in the possible 6 innings – which is the most by a Pakistani batsman every and around 13.60% more than the previous tally of 8832 by the great Javed Miandad. He has 34 Test centuries to his name, which is again head and shoulders ahead of his peers. But is he the best ever produced by Pakistan?

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Younis had a start-stop beginning in Test cricket. His moment of reckoning came on the shores of India. Inzamam Ul Haq, then the captain of Pakistan, backed Younis to bat at No. 3, a move which was severely criticized by many cricketing experts. Inzamam backed him even after his twin failures in the first Test at Mohali, where Pakistan managed to avoid defeat on the last day.

Younis came good in the next Test at the Eden Gardens scoring a defiant 147 but his contributions weren’t good enough for Pakistan to force a win. He saved his best for the last Test match at Bangalore. In Inzamam’s 100th Test match, Younis batted like a man possessed scoring 351 runs in the game which included a marathon innings of 267 in the first innings. His performance as a batsman in this Test was the catalyst in India’s shock defeat on the final day. Pakistan drew the 3-match series 1-1 and Younis had finally cemented his place in the Pakistan Test side.

From 2005 onwards, Younis went from strength to strength and accumulated runs all across the globe. His game was built around patience and discipline. Blessed with an ice-cool temperament, Younis had the ability to bat for long periods of time while concentrating like a monk. In his own way, he was intensely cerebral. He wasn’t an eye-catching player but, was, on occasions, twice as effective as one.

It is because of the skills that he was born with, he boasts of a great overseas record. An average in excess of 50 in Australia, England and India certainly gives a good reading. Younis did exceptionally well in the heat of his team’s adopted ‘home’ in the UAE as he averaged 55.20 in 27 Tests there and scored 11 centuries.

The other interesting aspect of Younis’ career has been his performances in the fourth innings where he boasts of an average of 53.85, which is slightly more than his career average. This is a true reflection of the class of the man. He stepped up when his team needed him the most and 44 out of his tally of 116 Tests ended in Pakistan victories. He amassed 4793 runs at 77.30 runs an innings with 19 centuries. These numbers accentuates his match-winning ability.

Since making his Test debut in 2000, Pakistan has played 146 Tests and Younis featured in 115 of them. He missed 15 Tests in the first 5 years of his career as he was a slower starter and was dropped every now and again. The rest 16 Tests were missed due to the odd injuries and mostly due to the occasional run-ins he had with the PCB. When Younis was in his early thirties, arguably at the peak of his prowess, he had a severe altercation with the Board which restricted him to play just 7 out of the 19 Tests in 2009 and 2010. Younis surely missed on some Test runs in these years.

The terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus in 2009 resulted in an exile of international cricket from Pakistan hence Younis, along with his other team mates, hasn’t played a single Test at home for 8 years now.

If none of the above factors had occurred, Younis would have been sitting pretty at 12,000 plus Test runs which would have been in line with his contemporaries. This was one of the reasons why he was never spoken in the same wavelength of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid or Jacques Kallis.

Younis has been a part of, and has played a leading role, in some of Pakistan’s finest wins, the most recently one been the Oval Test win. Doubts were raised on Younis’ effectiveness when he was seen jumping around the popping crease and fending deliveries in the early part of the series. The never-ending cry of him being too old to play for Pakistan started murmuring ever so slightly, and for the umpteenth time in his 17-year career. He blazed his way to his 6th Test double-hundred in the 4th Test and helped Pakistan draw a series in England. His monumental effort of 218 reaffirmed his greatness.

One of Younis’ proudest moments in a Pakistani shirt came in 2009 when he led his side to a World T20 win in England. He played a leading role in the World Cup triumph as well as he scored 172 runs at an average of 57.33 which included a crucial half-century.

ODI cricket was something that wasn’t exactly Younis’ forte. But he still boosted of reasonable numbers: 7249 runs in 265 games at an average of a shade over 31. His best year in coloured clothing came in 2008 when he amassed 865 runs in 18 games with an average of 54 and a strike rate of 97. Younis could strike the ball when mood struck him

Younis was the ‘smiling assassin’ of the Pakistan team. Nothing bothered him. He smiled at both victory and defeat and that was his best quality. He will be remembered as a batsman who tightened up his screws when the going got tough.

 

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