Middle order November 29, 2006

Yousuf's humility deserves the record

Forty-seven runs separate MohammadYousuf from the top spot, an unlikely opportunity for a man once known for his lazy elegance

Mohammad Yousuf stands on the threshold of history. Today--barring a stunning fightback from the West Indian tail, an unusually fruitful opening partnership from Pakistan, or freakish weather--Mr MoYo will get his chance to break Vivian Richards' record of most runs in a calendar year. Forty-seven runs separate Yousuf from the top spot, an unlikely opportunity for a man once known for his lazy elegance. There is, of course, nothing remotely laid back about his approach now. Yousuf has replaced lazy elegance with lofty elegance. He is a batsman who makes hard work look easy. He has shown that you can mix cricket with religion--each to his own I say. And his recent display of humility and insight has nudged me into rooting for him to take the record, despite my personal estimation that no batsman has ever matched King Viv.

Yousuf dealt with this particular comparison expertly by stating his own reverance for cricket's greatest master blaster. I agree with Yousuf: there is no comparison.

The second comparison foisted upon Yousuf is the one Inzamam-ul Haq discussed in his newspaper column. Yousuf, said Inzy, is the best ever Pakistani batsman, better than Javed Miandad, and better than Inzy too. Can this be true?

For help I turned to Saad Shafqat, my friend and co-author of Javed's autobiography. Saad offered the following analysis:

"Is MoYo better than JM?

Well, it's always treacherous comparing batsmen from different eras, but I can think of three important comparisons between MY and JM in which JM comes out ahead.

First, JM has played some phenomenal innings - Sharjah 1986, Georgetown 1988, Colchester 1981 - that have cast a longer shadow and created more ripples than anything MY has done so far.

Second, at the top of his game JM was for a while considered first among equals within the elite batsmen of his day - Gavaskar, Crowe, Border, Gooch, Gower, and Richards. (Actually Richards was perhaps always a bit ahead of the pack but JM easily rubbed shoulders with the rest.) MY, in contrast, is still not considered in the same league as his elite contemporaries - Dravid, Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Kallis, and even Inzy. MY could still get there, but he has yet to prove himself against this group.

Third, JM brought a lot more to the side than his batting. He was and is a tactical genius and he knew better than anyone how to fight the good fight. His legacy for Pakistan is not just in the batting stats he has left behind but in fact he transformed an entire nation's psyche and made it believe in it's own possibilities.

Oh, and of course JM had mastered the basics like running between the wickets, an area in which MY is a trainwreck."

I agree. Javed was a true master who erased any doubts about his record against the best teams in that 1988 series and in the way he almost single-handedly held together Pakistan's batting in the 1992 World Cup. He also hit the world's most famous six. Viv Richards once said that if he ever had to choose anybody to bat for his life it would be Javed. There can be no higher compliment.

In cricket there are statistics and then there is influence. Influence in cricket, like influence everywhere else, is hard to measure. In my view, Javed influenced more games than any other Pakistan batsman. Yousuf has begun to be more and more influential but he is still well behind Javed and even Inzy.

This doesn't mean that Yousuf does not deserve the utmost respect. He has conducted himself with remarkable honour and modesty. And he is right to point to his innings at Lord's this year as his best. I was lucky enough to be at the home of cricket to see the innings, possibly the most perfect innings ever by a Pakistani batsman. For the brilliance of that double hundred alone he deserves to break the record.

But whether or not he surpasses Viv Richards, Yousuf is a winner today. As some of you have pointed out already, Yousuf's success is a triumph of humility in an age of hubris. Let's hope the Karachi crowd gives him an appropriate reception.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here