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September 25, 2009

Champions Trophy

Pakistan seek a batting hero

Kamran Abbasi


Mohammad Yousuf has the ability to prove any critic wrong © AFP
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Earlier this year, India and Pakistan played out a 'warm up' at the Twenty20 World Cup. It had the atmosphere of a final. These old rivals have also tussled in South Africa in major tournaments, the close encounters of the 2007 World T20 being the most exciting. Yet perhaps the match of greatest importance was the 2003 World Cup clash at Centurion Park, a defeat that marked the end of an era.

For well over a decade, Pakistan had held the upper hand and approached a must-win match with a team full of the modern legends of Pakistan cricket. Unfortunately, that tournament was the twilight of the idols. India, meanwhile, were beginning to flex their muscles as a formidable international force. When the braggard Shoaib Akhtar steamed in expecting to demolish Sachin Tendulkar's defences, the little master smote him to the boundary and beyond. In that moment, Pakistan were vanquished and South Asia's baton of supremacy passed eastwards.

In the intervening years, India's cricketers have outplayed Pakistan's, while their adminstrators have given their Pakistani counterparts a sound thrashing. Clearly, the turmoil around and within Pakistan's borders has made the PCB's task difficult, although the PCB's inadequacies have also been a major contributor to the fragile state of Pakistan cricket.

Now Younis Khan's team approaches this Champions Trophy contest with a hint of momentum, and the confidence of World T20 Champions. Despite India being weakened, Pakistan will start as underdogs, which will help them. Importantly, they have avoided a potential banana skin on a difficult track against West Indies, however unconvincingly.

India have also indulged in some pre-tournament nonsense with Gary Kirsten's sex dossier urging the Indian players to indulge often, and even single-handedly, to build testosterone levels. A quick search of Google Scholar provides no reliable evidence that sex can boost testosterone levels sufficiently to enhance performance. The evidence on going "solo" is non existent. It's a study that might be difficult to conduct as most top sportsmen probably want to keep their nocturnal shenanigans to themselves. Either way, India's opponents will take great pleasure in the sledging opportunites that been showered upon them.

As ever, Pakistan supporters have no expectation that their team has a secret dossier of any kind. More importantly, they have no idea what to expect from their team but the focus of debate is around selection. The easiest one to deal with is Mohammad Asif. It would be nonsensical to introduce him at this stage, which means it's hard to see why he would be selected at all in this tournament. A couple of years ago, this young man carried the hopes of Pakistan's bowling fortunes. A privileged position that he threw away through his own stupidity.

Asif is immensely fortunate to be back in international cricket. He is also immensely short of match practice, something the Pakistan team management chose not to correct in the build up to this tournament. What's more, the Pakistan attack has a settled look to it and a balance that should suit most surfaces, especially Centurion Park.

The trickier decision is who should Younis Khan replace, assuming he remains fit? First, Younis has to play, He is captain and leader. That leaves Imran Nazir, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, and Misbah-ul-Haq. Nazir must play too. He is the only opener in Pakistan's squad and has a destructive ability that can swing any match. I'd play Malik for his ability to lay a firm foundation but also mount an assault. He is also a sixth bowling option and a reliable fielder.

I'd also play Misbah. He is a more natural one-day player than Yousuf and despite his recent form I'd back him to marshall the lower order better than his more illustrious colleague. In truth, I'm not sure what Yousuf's role is in the one-day team? He is the weakest fielder amongst the batsmen, and his real value is in Test cricket rather than in the limited-overs variety. It's touching that Pakistan are patiently welcoming him back into the bosom of the one-day team but wouldn't it be better to back a younger, hungrier man, a player for the future? Is Yousuf a realistic candidate for the next World Cup?

Of course, Yousuf has the ability to prove any critic wrong but the signals from Younis are that he wants to leave a legacy, a formidable group to take Pakistan cricket onwards after his retirement. In that case, he needs to identify some new batting heroes, other than Umar Akmal, and he must find them quickly.

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

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Posted by taimur ali on (October 2, 2009, 0:13 GMT)

kamran abasi i am gona be rude with you now cause,you are going against yousaf,in comparison of misbah and malik.For GOD sake open your eyes. It was just the writers like you in early 2000 that were against wasim,waqar.inzi but now they are missing them so much and i do believe that once yousaf retired you will express in your words how good he was.If he has not played a winning role in pakistan bating line so who has played i pakistan's histroy of bating.maindad,inzi just vey few of them and who is the best batesman now in country tecnicaly he he the best for now.you must be ashamed of your self.what is misbah and malik infront of yousaf not even a club level cricketers.Shame on you

Posted by GUJAR on (September 28, 2009, 9:12 GMT)

I REALLY MISS WASIM AKHRAM AND WAQAR YOUNIS, NO MATTER WHAT BATSMEN COME OR HOW MANY CENTURIES ARE MADE, PAKISTAN WILL ONLY SUCCEED WHENS THIERS AN UNPLAYABLE BOWLING ATTACK, I HOPE MHD AAMIR AND SOHAIL TANVIR FORM THAT KIND OF PARTNERSHIP. INSHALLAH.

Posted by Iftikhar Qureshi on (September 27, 2009, 9:44 GMT)

Did you say..."I'm not sure what Yousuf's role is in the one-day team"....guess now you know.

Posted by sonia naz on (September 27, 2009, 9:36 GMT)

all the best yusuf aap buht accha khylty ho super good hum india se jeety aap ki or malik ki waja se all the best team PAKISTAN

Posted by Zeeshan on (September 27, 2009, 9:16 GMT)

Kamran, you were 100% correct in saying 'Mohammad Yousuf has the ability to prove any critic wrong'. He did, none better than you!

Posted by addas khan on (September 27, 2009, 7:01 GMT)

I find it really hard to believe that anyone would consider dropping Mohd Yousuf for the less than average Misbah-Ul-Haq. Why is it that while the rest of the cricketing world would be more than happy to have someone like Mohd Yousuf in their side our 'intelligent' cricket columnists who do not have a clue about how the game is played are always calling for his head! I think it was Nick Knight who yesterday expressed great shock on air when he was told his place was in doubt! I mean he oozed class yesterday coaching Malik along the way to his, what i believe his best ODI innings of his career. I was in Pakistan recently and having talked to family, friends and and other it seems like players like Younis Khan and Mohd Yousuf are the most maligned and people like Nazir and Afridi are rated. I guess our public in Pak only like gun-ho batting and dont appreciate world class batting that only the two Y's often display. Kamran get off Mohd Yousufs back and please dont compare Misbah to him!

Posted by BattosaiXX on (September 27, 2009, 6:26 GMT)

Retarded comments by this author. I am talking after watching the match. I want all the people to talk now about dropping M. Yusuf. This author is confusing 50 over match for 20/20. Sloggers dont win 50 over match we learned it from years of Afridi's batting ( no disrespect as he is amazing all rounder). As for Younis Khan, he should not even play ny version of cricket beside test as he destroys Pakistan game comming 1 down. Afridi should be made captain for 50 over matches cause Younis decision are game costing. As today he giving over to umer gul again and again after geting bashed every over almost cost us the game. with 32 avg and his mentality of wasting overs in power play is wrong for the game. His settling in the power plays affects the whole team tempo n increases pressure as our openers never click and he is always in early. I should retire and only play test match which he is amazing at. As his only arsenal is one day cricket is a sweep shot. Stay out of 5050 team.

Posted by Sidra on (September 27, 2009, 6:20 GMT)

It was great To see Mohammad yousuf making contribution for Pakistan ..to see him back in form .Along with shoaib malik ,he put up a brilliant partnership and the credit goes to these 2 for the victory of Pakistan.

Posted by uscricketlover on (September 27, 2009, 5:14 GMT)

Mr phillips, where are you, Pak won and Eat your words, buddy.....

Posted by waterbuffalo on (September 27, 2009, 3:21 GMT)

As usual, Kamran Abbasi is wrong. Without Yousuf's run a ball innings and calm demeanour , Pakistan would not have won last night. And you suggested that Yousuf be dropped for Misbah. How can anyone take you seriously? I would rather post in the English blogs because I know you don't know the first thing about cricket when you cannot see the value of Mohd. Yousuf.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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