Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2009 July 7, 2009

Yousuf and the true path to greatness

Pakistan's best batsman doesn't have the quality that his predecessors possessed - the ability to weigh anchor and force less stable fellows to cling on to him

My faith in Pakistan chasing any second innings total didn't last long. In 1982, I ventured to Edgbaston expecting Imran Khan's team would score around 300 to beat England. I was filled with the optimism of youth. Looking back, almost any target would have troubled Pakistan. The day turned out to be a rapid and mostly cavalier failure.

I'm not sure I've ever recovered. Whenever Pakistan bat in the final innings of a Test match, whether to win or save the match, I expect the worst and desperately look for signs that any success is a turning point.

Younis Khan's team can't have found it easy to switch from the glamour of the Twenty20 World Cup to a gruelling Test series in Sri Lanka. But against all expectations they found themselves in a match-winning position. It was a position that they should have turned comfortably to victory.

Younis bemoaned a lack of steel and application among his senior players, echoes of his early complaints in the Twenty20 World Cup. He has a point. Pakistan's senior batsmen have historically struggled to summon sufficient mental fortitude to finish off a golden opportunity like the one presented to them at Galle.

This is why Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul Haq - and to some degree Imran Khan - were such special batsmen for Pakistan. They were able to weigh anchor and force their less stable fellows to cling on to them. It is an attribute that Younis aspires to but hasn't consistently mastered. Shoaib Malik is even less familiar with such heroics.

But Pakistan's biggest worry is that this skill has almost entirely escaped their heaviest run scorer. Mohammad Yousuf has continued almost exactly where he left off, with a fairytale first-innings hundred and a disappointment when it really mattered.

Don't get me wrong, Yousuf's return is a welcome triumph but Pakistan need him to play the decisive innings. These innings are hard to quantify but they are the ones that make the difference between success and failure. They mean more than averages and run-scoring records. These innings are the true path to greatness, a path that Mohammad Yousuf must tread.

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