Australia v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Sydney

The inquisition begins for Yousuf

There were plenty of harsh questions for Pakistan's captain after the Sydney loss

Osman Samiuddin in Sydney

January 7, 2010

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Mohammad Yousuf and Ricky Ponting at the end of the Test, Australia v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Sydney, 4th day, January 6, 2010
Mohammad Yousuf was understandably shattered after the loss © Getty Images
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Mohammad Yousuf came to the press conference alone. Usually he has been accompanied by the team manager but something about such defeats is a very solitary endeavour. He answered his questions with as much dignity as you can muster in these situations. All the while his eyes looked like nothing, not thinking, not smiling, not working where they usually are the most interesting thing after his beard to look at. After the questions had been asked, a real inquisition began.

Four journalists from Pakistan took Yousuf aside as had been the practice after most days to get not only the inside dope, but some coherence. Most Pakistan players are more comfortable and articulate in their own language and their answers in Urdu have much more than in English. Usually his eyes have a working mischief to them but he looked as shattered as a naturally unexpressive man can.

He sat slumped on a bench to the side of the press conference area, two journalists sitting either side of him and two standing up in front of him; it felt fully and distastefully like an interrogation.

Was this the worst we have ever played, no loosener, good short ball first up. "I am not saying we played well," Yousuf fended it nicely to square leg. "We played very poorly, very poorly. First of all my shot, I will say it was horrible. But what else can I say. We played really badly, they played well. You can write whatever you want on how badly we played."

People will write it too. Some more venting was required. Things had to be taken off the chest and scapegoats had to be found. There were quite a few. Harsh questions were asked, but I always thought such situations would be more heated, tenser. Words would be exchanged, some shouting and pointing of fingers. But questions came wrapped in sweet, inoffensive tones, even soothing. We could have been at a funeral where nobody died.

'Why do we do it?' asked one, a simple and impossible question. "It wasn't a difficult chase," Yousuf began. "We should've done it easily. We can't take pressure. Many of the side are young. If some players have been playing for 8-10 years…" Another interrupted him, to point out that the young had been playing well. 'It's the seniors who aren't performing. Misbah, Kamran and you are three seniors.' Solid cut.

"Yah…mine was a really poor shot," Yousuf said again.

'And what about Danish? Compare him to Hauritz - Danish gave 150 runs, Hauritz only 50.'

"Danish gave a huge effort," Yousuf continued his defense. "He bowled 50 overs. Danish had to take wickets. We gave Hauritz wickets."

Someone interrupted the lynching to ask about the moment Pakistan really lost this Test, in the field in the morning, when Pakistan went at Australia like a goldfish encircling a shark. Yousuf didn't think much of that period, just that Pakistan had to be defensive against Michael Hussey. "We had to stay defensive with Hussey. Siddle ended up playing well, scoring 40 runs. We didn't realize he could." Not recognizing the flaw of his plans revealed more than the answer itself.

Most venom and time was reserved for the wicketkeeper. Kamran Akmal is a sweet man. That doesn't help in holding onto catches or scoring runs and he hasn't done either here. Questioners then became solution-providers, an uncomfortable crossing of a sacred line.

'Misbah also…he is old now, reflexes are slow. Body language is also poor,' started one journalist.

"You are right, no doubt about that," replied Yousuf, though not really and leaving it, teasingly, at that.

One told Yousuf that by his thinking nobody will ever get replaced in the side. Before he could answer another asked why Shahid Afridi and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan can't play in this side, given how long the tail is. For the first time, Yousuf revved up. "Afridi says sometimes he wants to play, sometimes he doesn't want to play. What can a guy do? You tell me, what can I do?"

It was only left to wrap up and look ahead to pointlessness. Here was the making of a summer and it was now undone. Not that he had been agitated but some of Yousuf's calm filtered back into him. "We have lost but cricket hasn't stopped, or come to an end. When it does end, we will stop. We will try to play well in the next Test and try to win it. We have seen we can win if we bat well."

A couple of the journalists rubbed it in a little. 'We haven't smiled for two hours. Only now once you are here we smiled.'

"What can I say?" Yousuf asked, before saying it. "If I fall now, everyone else will fall too. What I am feeling inside right now, what can I tell you? What can I do? If I fall those guys inside will fall. They need to think themselves too and accept. I made a mistake, I accept it. I will try not to do it again. There is no doubt if I had stuck around for a while, put on another 15-30 runs we could've been okay. But I took a chance and I got to the ball but the ball came too low at the bottom. Okay wrong shot but he held on to it. Since yesterday things were working against us…

"The first innings, that was it. If we had taken a 300 lead…" he trailed off as Ricky Ponting walked past, looking not enough like the man who had been pardoned just as the noose was going around his head.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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