The Last Pakistanis.

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The Last Pakistanis.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:07 pm

It was an uncomfortable experience watching Younis Khan bat against England last summer, at Lord's, Old Trafford and Edgbaston. Like the tough, obdurate old timer he is, on his last tour of England, he didn't give his wicket away. He fought to starts of about 20-30, his back leg swinging around behind him in his pick up like the creaking boom of a vintage sailing boat. It was enough exposure to be quite sure that this was the end, and wonder why the Pakistan selectors hadn't taken a more sensitive option to save the careworn 38 year old from this ignominy... And we watched one of Pakistan's formerly more capable fielders dropping crucial chances in the slips, often the first blinking of the warning light.

That Younis finished the series with his second ton in the UK, 218 in Pakistan's series equalling win at the Oval, ensured a wonderful finale to a series in which the popular Pakistan tourists repaired their relationship with the cricket watching public of England. Younis wasn't fluent, but then he was never the most graceful of batters. By the time he tore himself from the crease after a marginal lbw shout, it was a reminder of ten years before when the determined and combative Younis with Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq, for a period challenged the Indians as the best middle order in Test cricket.

As Pakistan signalled their victory with a few last celebratory press ups on the outfield of the Oval, two reputations were made in this country. The sentimentality of Younis' last gasp triumph established him as one of the all time great batters in the minds of the public, a status that had evaded him here in spite of being one of the few players to have scored 9000 runs (he now has 9977). But perhaps even more, the bonhomie of this tour was secured by their likeable captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, who took over as Pakistan's leader after the shame of the 2010 tour of England and established himself as Pakistan's best Test captain. The 2-2 draw took Pakistan to the head of the Test rankings for the first time and reaffirmed Pakistan's credibility.

Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq are touring the West Indies, and will play their final international game in Dominica. And a link will be lost as the last two Pakistan players to have played Test cricket in Pakistan* will leave the game. Younis and Misbah, born close by in the old North West Frontier Province, made their debuts only a year apart in 2000 and 2001. Their early years in the international game were very different. Misbah took a decade to establish himself. Younis has played 115 Tests over a long career and is the Pakistan leading run scorer. He has 34 hundreds, and only five players from any country have scored more. He is one of only 26 to score a triple hundred. His Test average of 53.1 is within a run of batters of the calibre of contemporaries Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.

Younis made his Pakistan debut against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi alongside Yousuf and Inzi in a thrilling two wicket defeat. He scored a hundred in his second innings. He has made runs against everyone, home and away. While his opportunities to play against India have been limited, he averages 89 against them, and perhaps his greatest ever series was in Pakistan's tour of 2005, and his 267 in Bangalore to level the series in the last Test was a candidate for his ultimate knock. But arguably his most remarkable achievement was to survive for so long in such a turbulent time for Pakistan cricket. From the era of Wasim and Waqar to captaining a T20 World Cup win in England, and onto Pakistan's unbeatable reign in the UAE.

Looking at an overview of Younis' career, I'm reminded of the timeline of a soap character, who inevitably accumulates an absurd amount of incident. He was at the epicentre of the tempest in 2010 when he and Yousuf were 'banned indefinitely' for matters related to 'discipline' following a tour of Australia, only to be reinstated three months later when the Pakistan middle order struggled... The Daily Telegraph printed allegations regarding match fixing which it then retracted. There is no public evidence of any wrongdoing... and there is little clarity in Pakistan cricket.

Younis didn't play in the infamous Sydney Test of 2010 when Kamran Akmal, with Pakistan 200 ahead on first innings, missed every chance that came his way until Australia duly won (Younis played in the ODIs). And he was still out of favour the following summer when Salman Butt led his coterie of spot fixers to tour England. It was in this sustained condition of sporting crisis that Pakistan turned to another absentee, Misbah-ul-Haq to host South Africa in late 2010 having dropped him from all formats a few months earlier. He was 36. Appropriately he began in Dubai as Pakistan established their fortress in the desert and the thoughtful Misbah would perform a miracle in keeping his team off the front pages after a decade of ill repute. On the field, most memorably Pakistan ended Alistair Cook's England's rise to the top of the rankings in 2012 with a clean sweep.

Misbah will retire with a Test average of about 46 and 5000 runs from his late renaissance and he will observe his 43rd birthday in the West Indies. His batting career has been a success even if not what he will be most remembered for. For such an aloof, professorial figure, his methods can touch on the bizarre. At Lord's in 2016 he ostentatiously celebrated a fabulous ton incongruously with ten press ups. The man who was lamented by his home press for his stately batting, then broke out and smashed the fastest ever Test fifty on his way to equalling Viv Richard's 56 ball ton (at Abu Dhabi against Australia). But most of all I am drawn to his peculiar 102 against the bewildered English tourists in Dubai in 2015 when he blocked near every ball bowled by the seamers, regardless of merit, and hit to the rope most of the spin, again seemingly regardless of merit.

Misbah appears to be a likeable and studious leader who brings original plans onto the field which at times verge on the eccentric. He has been a fine international batter who conveys the impression that his real genius is his personality. He will be missed by many with some warmth of affection. Younis will be remembered as a world great bat; not quite with the awe reserved for Javed Miandad, but as the equal of any Pakistani of his generation, which is quite a feat. They will be called to mind in very different ways but they will say farewell together and soon, at Windsor Park, Roseau on May 14th.
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Re: The Last Pakistanis.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:27 pm

* the last to have played in Pakistan, assuming Hafeez, Shoaib and Sohail don't return.

Three players have toured to Pakistan and are still playing Tests. I'll name those a bit later in case anyone wants to have a think.
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Re: The Last Pakistanis.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:47 pm

Amla, Steyn and Herath have played in Pakistan.
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Re: The Last Pakistanis.

Postby Making_Splinters » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:24 pm

So has Bell, though I'm not sure if you'd count him.
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Re: The Last Pakistanis.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:29 pm

Yes, I think Bell isn't coming back.

Or KP.
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Re: The Last Pakistanis.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:59 am

Story on cricinfo that YK is now saying he may not retire! I thought of adding a nothing is impossible in Pakistani cricket postscript at the end of my post but decided to pass up that particular cliche. But maybe we will see YK again after this series. Maybe Afridi will be back in the side too...

I saw a quote complaining about Misbah's batting on Wiki, apparently issued by the Taliban! Called him 'pathetic'!
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