June 17, 2009

Saad Shafqat

Younis Khan's masterstroke

Saad Shafqat
Younis Khan speaks during a press conference, Lord's, May 31, 2009
 © Associated Press
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At some point in the build up to this World Twenty20, Younis Khan would have assembled the rest of the Pakistan team think-tank to pore over the tournament's list of fixtures. Shoaib Malik would have been there along with Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal.The coach would probably have not been around, this being the kind of meeting where you only invite those you can call upon when it hits the fan out in the middle.

There would have been an intense seriousness to this meeting, a sober atmosphere that Pakistan's cricketers, with their trademark devil-may-care attitude, are loath to display in public. There would have been an implicit recognition of what was at stake. After the visiting Sri Lankans were attacked by terrorists in Lahore in March, John Stern, Editor of the Wisden Cricketer, questioned in an interview on CNN whether Pakistan would even be able to play in the World Twenty20. Stern's was only one prominent voice among many fussing about Pakistan's threat of cricketing isolation. The nucleus of Pakistan's team saw clearly, as indeed did the rest of the country, that the World Twenty20 would be their last chance to push back.

After digesting the schedule of fixtures for a few minutes, one of them would have pointed out, as is obvious to everyone now, that five victories could get you the title. A mere five victories, of which four need to be against authentic Test nations. In the event, Pakistan have had the easiest ride of the tournament so far, with wins against two associate nations, plus New Zealand, which has traditionally been the weakest of the authentic Test sides. By the looks of it the cricket gods are finally smiling, perhaps offering a long overdue break to the country that has seen more turbulence in the last two years than in the rest of its six-decade history.

Back at the pre-tournament meeting, Younis would have contemplated this campaign knowing he was up against much more than just cricketing opposition. He had to lift spirits, sharpen everyone's focus, and blot out the hype that inevitably accompanies the likes of India and Australia and was bound to undercut his own team's morale. He knew he had to prepare everyone by modulating expectations, which he delicately calibrated by announcing that reaching the semi-finals would be good enough. He would also have been mindful of the potential for the Daniel Vettoris of the cricketing world to behave as sore losers, and he would have been conscious of the deafening criticism that would erupt from Pakistan's unforgiving press and public at the first defeat. Younis knew he would need a terrific Plan B, something as powerful and galvanising as Imran Khan's 'cornered tigers' appeal from 1992.

After the Group B defeat to England, he unveiled it, telling a bemused media contingent that Twenty20 is 'fun cricket'. Younis was addressing his own team of course. Take it easy, close your eyes, relax. You can easily picture him sticking to the same theme as the toughest test yet awaits. Sure, its the semi-final and South Africa is some seriously tenacious opposition, but don’t let that get to you. Imagine you're just playing a league match in Lahore. Enjoy yourself.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

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Posted by Zaka Sheikh on (July 27, 2009, 21:05 GMT)

I think the author needs his head examined. He should be writing short stories which have no relevnce to facts.

Posted by irfan balouch on (June 26, 2009, 15:38 GMT)

Hi all I jus want to tell that cricket is a funny game and 2020 is the most funniest bit the invention of power play and all these hard hitting strokes that thing has killed the beauty of classic cricket however we are living in that world where time is biggest factor in all sorts of sports to compete the popular sports like soccer 2020 is a new kid in the block so in this regard if someone like younis delivers a comment about the funny nature of this style of sport I think he was quite right although his words were may be malafidely misrepresented by the authorities . Can retrospect all the previous talks on this website about this issue and believe that paki team has left no words for those who were trying to humiliate them rather then giving them the benefit of doubt that english is not the national language in pakistan well I am proud the way pakis fought and won the crown . God bless them all

Posted by shabut on (June 21, 2009, 21:07 GMT)

I was provn wrong on the account that it was not Pak vs. WI final however I was proven right on the law of average account where Sri Lanka had to lose one game eventually and they did so in the Finals. Great performance by the Pak team. I wonder what the most favorites are doing right now. HAhahahahah!!!!!

Posted by Nabeell on (June 20, 2009, 8:58 GMT)

Lets bring smile on the faces of people of SWAT......a worldcup dedicated to the ones who lost their homes and loved ones..... pAKI pOWER

Posted by Raj on (June 18, 2009, 21:00 GMT)

Looking back at how India and South Africa lost, I think Younis' comments were a master-stroke.. It was evident in the way Kamran Akmal started the innings and how Afridi ran away with the match.. Way to go, Pakistan!!! Bring home the cup!

Posted by shabut on (June 18, 2009, 20:46 GMT)

50% of what I had said yesterday came true today after Pakistan beat the South Africans. Do you still doubt that the final is going to be anything other than Pak vs. West Indies?? Keep watching!!!!

Posted by nad on (June 18, 2009, 20:11 GMT)

REALIST...what do u say now...and my league is : 1. Aust, Pak, SA 2. SL, WI, Ind 3. Eng, NZ, BD, all time records ...

Posted by Junaid Asghar on (June 18, 2009, 15:59 GMT)

Harish, you dont need to have command on ENGLISH language to play cricket, it is unfortunate that most cricket playing countries speak english. I still belive that what younus said was an imperfect translation of what he thought in his native language. Fans want thier teams to win. Dont you? You criticize if they lose, this is only but natural. Younis with all weaknesss is a good player and little support from his mate (like Malik and Butt) he can transform this team into a winning squad.

Posted by Jamila Nemer on (June 18, 2009, 15:08 GMT)

Keep a cool head and you can win Younus. If we use our main players well we will win. Leaving aside being rusty and underprepared. I thought it was the confidence which let us down in the early games. Believe in their abilities and they will win.

Posted by Junaid Asghar on (June 18, 2009, 15:02 GMT)

It is definately more than a league match in Lahore. It is T20I and you are up against toughset compitetors. Younus's statement was misunderstood. He didnt mean what rest thought he meant. Probably the language barier. it is not fair to be judgemental. I hope and am very confident that Pakistan will win this semi. Good Luck to team Pakistan and Younus.

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