Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

India v Pakistan 2005

The only way is up

Younis Khan, the unlikely hero of Pakistan's test series in India, has seen more downs than ups in international cricket.

However, the 27-year-old has now finally cemented his place in the team after his inspired career-best 267 in the third Test on Friday came on the back of a brilliant 147 in Calcutta (Kolkata).

It was Younis' eighth Test century in 35 matches, the highest score by a foreign batsman in India and the sixth best by a Pakistani in history.

His marathon 11-1/2 hour knock helped his team score a mammoth 570 in their first innings and Younis believes Pakistan should win from here.

"We must go for victory, capitalising on the cracks on the wicket that could be very helpful to our spinners," Younis said.

The team cause notwithstanding, the innings was a big personal landmark for a man who started with a century on debut against Sri Lanka in 1999 but has always been under pressure to prove himself.

"I never worry about my failures, try not to take any extra pressure," he said.

"Even when I'm dropped, I play my natural game. I never think my cricket will end."

One of the few batsmen who retained his place in the team after Pakistan's disastrous World Cup campaign in 2003, Younis lost it soon after due to a poor run in the home series against Bangladesh and South Africa that year.

He came back into the side for the one-day series against India, but failed to consolidate a permament place in the test side.

When he finally did start getting into his batting groove in Australia this year with a fighting 87 at Melbourne, there was team and personal disaster in store.

Pakistan were routed 3-0 in the Test series and Younis had to return home from the one-dayers because his father died.

When he was appointed vice-captain for the current India tour in place of Yousuf Youhana, he came under severe criticism from several quarters. Captain Inzamamul Haq was also not too thrilled by the decision.

Eager to win his skipper and team's respect on the India tour, Younis could not have done it in a more emphatic manner.

He shared in a 324-run stand with Inzamam (184) and later said he could not play like his skipper.

"He is always an inspiration, I can't bat like him."

The 35-year-old Inzamam returned the compliment by saying Younis batted better than him.

Younis and Inzamam had once famously scuffled, in front of the team and media, during a practice football match in Bulawayo. But that now seems to be well behind them.

Younis is a Pathan, a collection of tribles who are fabled guardians of the wild mountains of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier bordering Afghanistan.

He resembles fellow-Pathan and his cricketing idol Imran Khan when he dances down the track against spinners, hair sticking out from under his baggy cap.

Especially strong in the arc from backward point to extra cover, he enjoys getting down on one knee and driving extravagantly.

"I never think of records, so I'm not disappointed at missing a triple-century," Younis said after his 504-ball knock.

"It was really never on my mind."

Best Pak Scorers
List of top-10 individual Test scores for Pakistan after Younis Khan hit 267 in the third and final Test against India on Friday:
Batsman Runs Against Venue Season
Hanif Mohammad 337 West Indies Bridgetown 1957-58
Inzamamul Haq 329 New Zealand Lahore 2002
Javed Miandad 280* India Hyderabad 1982-83
Zaheer Abbas 274 England Birmingham 1971
Javed Miandad 271 New Zealand Auckland 1988-89
Younis Khan 267 India Bangalore 2005
Javed Miandad 260 England The Oval 1987
Wasim Akram 257* Zimbabwe Sheikhupura 1996-97
Zaheer Abbas 240 England The Oval 1974
Saleem Malik 237 Australia Rawalpindi 1994-95
(*denotes not out)

Younis Khan ...267