Pakistan Cricket is synonymous with unpredictability. They spring surprises, they create real shockers, and along the way they produce, characters who play their part within the team. There was Imran Khan – the charismatic Khan, the deadly W"s Wasim and Waqar, the spin sensation Abdul Qadir and a host of others, that could fill pages of a book. Most recently, one such character is the current Pakistan Test and One Day Captain - Younus Khan. That"s Younus and not as it"s misspelt as, Younis!
With rugged features so typical of the mountainous region that he comes from, Younus Khan is what one could refer to as the quintessential smiling man". His face wrinkles up into a grin and often a laugh, but here"s the catch, mostly when times are not so good. That"s what makes him a unique being. One that you would want to get to know for psychological" reasons! His philosophy is rather simple, and that"s what puts him in a niche area.
Mardan, home to Younus, has been in the news, for all the not so encouraging reasons. The hub, of talibanised" Pakistan, troubles are a-plenty in that region. But 9 years ago, this hilly terrain gave the Pakistan National side a cricketer who would be an asset in both the longest version of the game and one day internationals. An aggressive batsman, he showed his caliber when on Test debut against Sri Lanka, he scored a 107 runs, announcing his arrival on the professional front.
Since then Younus Khan has played 63 tests and has amassed 5260 runs, with his highest score being 313 against Sri Lanka in the home series earlier this year. Yes, that infamous series that ended with a bang literally, and thereby ostracized Pakistan from the Cricket map, as a cricketing destination. In the 50-overs limited cricket, Younus has been a decent contributor, with 5623 runs in as many as 191 matches. Statistics do tell a story, but on the cricket field spectators look forward to an aggressive batting display from the man who lives up to his fearless" Pathan Tag. The one image that they take back with them mostly, is when one sees, him going down on bended knee to whisk the ball over the boundary ropes. A pretty sight indeed.
One could delve deeper into the statistical world, but somehow that takes the romance out of who the cricketer really is. There are stories that belong to Younus Khan, and one would have to speak about his tryst with captaincy. His first stint with Test captaincy was when he led the team against the West Indies in 2005, in the first test in a one-off situation, as the original captain, Inzamam ul Haq was serving a one match suspension. Younus went on to captain the team in the one day series, again in a one-off match! In 2006 the Pakistan Cricket Board, officially offered Younus Khan Captaincy for the 2006 ICC Championship, as Inzamam ul Haq was serving a four match ban due to "bringing the game into disrepute" during the fourth Test of the 2006 series between England and Pakistan! Younus was reluctant saying that he did not want to be a dummy captain". He resigned from captaincy just two days before the event, making Mohammad Yousuf the skipper, but on the day that the event started, the PCB confirmed that it would be Younus Khan who would lead the side. As they say, all"s well that ends well!
After the 2007 World Cup, Inzamam ul Haq resigned captaincy due to the performance of the team and all the controversy that surrounded the demise of the coach Bob Woolmer. The Board then made a formal offer to Younus Khan to captain the national side on a permanent basis. But this time too, he donned the role of a man in denial" and refused captaincy one more time! They say that when things are destined to happen, well, they just happen. Early this year, the Board made an offer again to Younus Khan to accept the role of captain on a permanent basis for all forms of the game. This time he did accept and performed like a champion, scoring his highest ever test score of 313 against the Lankans in the now much talked about home series.
Twenty20 cricket has taken the cricket world by storm but still remains just another version of the great game. But for the affable Younus Khan, fortunes turned in his favour, for under his captaincy, Pakistan won the T20 World Cup, this year. The nation needed a positive event in cricket and winning the world cup in the shortest format of the game, did just that! And for Younus Khan, this was the jewel in the crown of his career. In a self assessment of sorts, he decided that T20 was not his kind of cricket, given that he had reached the age of 31, and stepped down from captaincy and from the format of the game that gave his captaincy and career that crowning glory moment.
The most crucial and perhaps most endearing aspect of this fearless Pathan, is his overall attitude to life and the game. Younus Khan is often criticized for his flippant attitude towards cricket, but his philosophy is pretty straightforward. After going through a great deal of personal tragedy, playing cricket for his country just had to be pure unadulterated fun. The years that he"d most want to forget are 2005 and 2006 where he lost his father and eldest brother in 2005 and another elder brother, in 2006! Coming to grips with the loss of people that were so close to his heart, was something that made Younus Khan harder as an individual. It"s understandable then, that you always see him smiling on the cricket field. Win or lose, for Younus what"s important is that you give it your best and enjoy the game for what it is. It is just a game!
A refreshing phenomenon without a doubt, Younus Khan has won the hearts of many in the cricketing world! Well, at least of those who love the game, and seeing a player who can so totally revel in it"s cricketness. This Khan CAN sure smile!