Younis Khan: the art of “Graceful Batting”

younis

Often termed as a lone-ranger, Younis has been the best Pakistani batsman the world could see © AFP

As I write this, Mohammad Younis Khan’s age reads 39 years 16 days. When you come across a cricketer of that age, it is typically in the commentary box or on the selection panel; or maybe donning an umpire’s attire. He may even have become a columnist. But Younis is not your everyday cricketer. Not only does Younis still play, he is also the fulcrum of Pakistan’s batting line-up. What is more astonishing is the fact that he seems to get better with every passing day despite having broken all batting records in the history of Pakistan. He is like a wine which is enriching itself with every ball he faces in whites.

There are few as correct as Younis is when it comes to batsmanship. Barely anyone at international level who can impersonate him and, truth be told, no one can. At 39 he sometimes gives the impression that he is actually too young. He is too sound in his technique and additionally mature in his stay at the crease.

He may not have the style of Mohammad Yousuf and Saeed Anwar. He does not have the power to hit massive sixes like Inzamam-ul-Haq. He is not as graceful as Zaheer Abbas, as combative as Javed Miandad, or as imposing a stonewaller as Hanif Mohammad. No, he has not been the most attractive of them all; but when it comes to rearguard acts, few have matched his prowess.

After debuting way back in 2000, Younis has 112 Tests to his name and is closing in on 10,000 runs. Another 37 runs will make him the first Pakistani to get to the landmark. He averages a superb 52.89 and has an astonishing conversion rate, scoring more hundreds (33) than the fifties (31). Not surprisingly, Younis has emerged a master of the fourth innings. Among players with 1,000 or more fourth-innings Test runs, his average of 55.04 has been bettered by only Geoff Boycott (58.76) and Sunil Gavaskar (58.25).

You can almost see him bring up yet another hundred, his sweat-drenched shirt clinging to his torso, his helmet taken off after hours of toil, his bat raised, a rare smile on his face. Then he takes guard again, focusing on the double-hundred mark.

That has happened time and again. Even in this year, he got that 218 against England at The Oval — an effort that turned the Test on its head put Pakistan in the driver’s seat won the Test for them and elevated Pakistan to the top spot in ICC Test rankings.

He missed the first Test of the series against West Indies in UAE with dengue. It did not matter: on his return, he scored 127 and added a fifty in the next Test.

The New Zealand series is one he would probably like to forget. An aggregate of 28 runs from 4 innings is not exactly befitting to a man of his stature. Not surprisingly, Pakistan struggled against the Black Caps and lost the series 0-2.

His other epic, a humongous 760-minute 313, came after Sri Lanka piled up 644 for 7. The hundreds kept coming (he slammed two more double-hundreds), and he finally reached what can perhaps be called his peak, in 2014, when he scored 1,064 runs at 66.50 with 5 hundred’s. This included a streak of 106, 103*, 213, 46, and 100* in UAE.”

Younis adapts. He shuffles around the crease against pacers. He jumps at bouncers with an awkward yet effective technique to fend the ball away. And he flicks through fine-leg with remarkable ease.

If Pakistan are playing, chances are that if you turn on your television you will see him dealing calmly with Test bowlers somewhere in the world.

Against spinners, he is too quick to get to the pitch of the ball. That defence seems impregnable at times.

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How often do we see a batsman shuffling when James Anderson and Stuart Broad are bowling in tandem? Younis’s technique relies on a good deal of bottom hand, which deprives it of the fluidity and grace that is typical of Asia’s best batsmen.

His figures are enough to explain that he is one of the best in business. Without Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq, team Pakistan is going to find it tough in Tests cricket — this, despite the fact that their combined age is more than 81 and their Test experience amounts to 181 Tests.

With the innumerable highs came the rare phases of low. Younis’s career has as much turmoil as any. Inability to control infighting within the team and matters with PCB led to him losing captaincy in late 2009.

He was appointed captain in 2009 but resigned after there was Senate enquiry into match-fixing. He was cleared, but the allegation did not go down to well. In 2010, the PCB banned him indefinitely. The ban was because of his role in the “infighting which brought down the whole team during the tour of Australia in January” that year.

When he stepped down from in November 2009, the players alleged that Younis was an egoistic, rude individual who liked to take credit for all the good things, the victories but was the first to put blame on others for defeats. Moreover, on one of the tours, a manager had also stated that Younis did not have the patience or man-management skills required to deal with diverse individuals and temperament in the team and his stubborn, arrogant approach was causing considerable discord in the team.

Despite all this, Younis never disclosed the names of the people who went opposite him within his team, which is something that does not tally with the blames put on him. He did take a break from cricket. He retired from limited-overs cricket in 2015.

There are so many images of Younis raising his bat, smiling on the way off the field, winning Tests, saving Tests, or merely enjoying his time out in the middle. Almost all of them have no people behind him. Often, he is the only person in the shot.

Despite all this, Younis Khan, the living batting legend will carry on batting with the grace!

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