Butt not convinced Ys heads are the answer
Salman Butt has a question for those of us who feel Pakistan are hitting themselves in the foot by continuing to ignore the Ys - Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan - out of the batting ranks. "Having seen the past results can anybody over here tell me how many wins Pakistan had with the people who were previously playing?" Butt shot the query at the media after Pakistan's embarrassing defeat in Nottingham.
He probably meant Pakistan's record in England, as out of the five and six Tests Younis and Yousuf have played respectively in this country, they were part of only one victory - at Old Trafford in the summer of 2001 when Inzamam-ul-Haq bolstered the middle-order with his calm presence. Waqar Younis, Pakistan's current coach, was then leading an experienced side, which also featured Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar and Saqlain Mushtaq.
However, Butt, if he has been referring to the stats books, would also be aware of the Y-pair's outstanding record in England: Yousuf has compiled 716 runs at 65.09 including a double-century and Younis has logged 470 runs at 52.22 with one hundred and a highest of 173. Those are big runs and Pakistan could do with such stone-walling efforts, going by the fragility of their batting order this summer.
The call for their return is bound to get louder if you consider the fact that in the six innings so far on this trip, Pakistan's middle-order, comprising Nos. 3-7, has recorded a solitary half-century. Azhar Ali, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal have have all wobbled and succumbed to pressure easily.
Yet Butt and Waqar have stressed that Pakistan possess the best possible unit at the moment and it was only healthy and apt to think beyond the Ys. "Whoever is in the Pakistan side is there because of his ability and needs to be given time to show what they are capable of," Butt said. "Had we been winning with them in the team in the past two years then it could've been a mistake. But the results were the same. In fact these guys pulled off a victory after 15 years [against Australia last week at Headingley]. So people are not seeing the reality."
Waqar was more direct on Saturday evening, when Pakistan had lost their top three wickets in a matter of minutes. Asked if he felt the inexperienced middle order needed reinforcement in the form either Yousuf or Younis, or both, he did not entertain the thought too much. "Look, one is retired [Yousuf]. We can't really bring somebody back from retirement. The other one [Younis] has got serious issues with the cricket board [PCB]," Waqar said with a smile.
Waqar said he was disappointed at some of the shots his batsmen played but felt this team was on the right track, in light of what he had witnessed in the past few years where Pakistan cricket had been marred by relentless controversies. "If you compare the Pakistan side from the last two to three years to this one it is a big improvement," Waqar said. "We want to make this into a big unit. We might have to take a couple losses but this unit looks good."
Pakistan's biggest problem on this trip has been the weak spine the batsmen have shown in the face of challenging seaming and swinging conditions. Their ineptitude to raise a challenging score has only hurt and eventually demoralised their fast men - Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul, who have put in stellar performances. Butt accepts the blame. "Yes, because we have got out very quickly today and we lost seven wickets in an hour's time you can say we have the problems against the seaming (swinging) ball."
Butt himself was a failure, getting a single-digit score in both innings. Ironically for Butt, though just two matches old as captain, he is Pakistan's highest run maker this year and so remains the man to lend a direction for the rest of the batting order. "All of us need to take responsibility having played a bit more cricket than some others in the team," Butt said.
However Butt is not willing to pull the pin on any of the batsmen. "I am just two games old: we have won one and lost the other. So I can never think of saying they have not responded. I can't be that impatient," Butt said. According to him, expecting Pakistan to win every match is asking for the moon. "What do you expect from them - win every game? That will not happen. This is the time when you back your players. It is just a matter of putting up a performance whether it being bowling, fielding, batting. The faith I have in them, I know they can make a comeback."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo