Pakistan send out SOS for Younis Khan
Pakistan's failings with the bat in Melbourne have prompted the team management to send out an SOS for Younis Khan. The former captain, who has kept a low profile since he abruptly relinquished the leadership in November, is believed to be keen to respond and may even arrive in time for the second Test in Sydney, due to begin on January 3.
Pakistan were dismissed for 258 on an unusually docile MCG track, and only Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq batted with any authority against a disciplined and bustling Australian pace attack. That continued a run of poor performances in Younis's absence on the New Zealand tour, where Pakistan relied heavily on Umar as they drew a three-Test series 1-1.
But the team management has been keen on getting Younis over since before the Melbourne Test began. After the opening day at the MCG, they called up Iqbal Qasim, Pakistan's chief selector, and said they needed Younis. Since then it is believed there may have even been direct contact between Mohammad Yousuf, the Pakistan captain, and Younis.
"They have been very keen on getting Younis over and they called up Iqbal Qasim after the first day to make the request," a board official told Cricinfo. "A request needs to be made in writing and the selection committee will discuss and weigh up the pros and cons before the decision is made."
Younis gave up the post after losing an ODI series to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi, claiming that he had "lost command over his players." It came after months of reported unhappiness within the team over his leadership. He went underground immediately after, only to resurface suddenly while attending a PCB coaching course in Lahore and then turning out, unimpressively, in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy final for Habib Bank. Subsequently there emerged a possibility that he may arrive in time for the ODI series, but the frailty of Pakistan's batting has apparently sped up the process.
Younis' poor form - also a factor in his decision - remains a concern, however, and the selectors are keen for him to play at least one game of the local Pentangular tournament, which is due to begin on January 1, before he comes to Australia. Since making a triple-hundred on a lifeless track in Karachi in February, he has scored 131 runs in four Tests. His ODI form has also been wobbly.
But his experience and track record at No.3 - a particularly troublesome spot for Pakistan in recent Tests where they have tried four different batsmen in four Tests - is thought to be crucial in Australia. Not only was he Pakistan's leading scorer in the last Test series here, he enjoyed a successful stint with South Australia last season.
"Younis has been contacted and there is a chance that Yousuf has also contacted him directly," said the official. "He has said that he is fit and ready to go, but will stand by whatever process the selectors put in place for his return."
That process would appear to depend on how Pakistan ultimately fare in Melbourne. A loss could mean that there is a "70-80%" chance of Younis making it in time for Sydney. If they somehow escape with a draw he could arrive in time for the final Test in Hobart, having played at least one Pentangular match in the interim. The call-up would also entail a current member of the squad returning to Pakistan, and it could possibly be one of the fast bowlers.
A final decision could also be taken as early as tomorrow, depending on the situation of the Test.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo