Injured Younis not shirking tough games
Running away holds a significant place in Younis Khan's scheme of things. It is a recurrent theme in his conversation, shirking from challenge, responsibility and difficulty. He has spent his career and life mired in these matters, in making his way into and out of and then back in, in refusing the vice-captaincy in 2002, in refusing the captaincy in 2007 and finally in taking it.
There is a school of informed thought in Pakistan that believes when Younis turned down the captaincy after the last World Cup - effectively that he ran away, if you like - he did so because he wanted to take over when things had become even worse and some kind of savior was needed. It is self-indulgent, righteous and hubristic even, the belief that only you can resolve what is a mess and right all wrongs. Democrats will also tut-tut. But the stance is also to be admired, for, potentially, you set yourself up for big falls, bigger than even the rewards. And to go into it knowing that, it is something few men take on.
In a recent interview with Cricinfo, talking about taking up the captaincy this time Younis said, "I am going to go into this storm, go right to the edge and see how long I can stand there." To him that is the fun. It is a curious, contrary outlook to have and as he is a true Pathan, we can safely say he is no different from many of his kind. The balls here are untampered.
Precisely these things determine his place in the side tomorrow. A finger on his right - and bottom - hand is fractured and the doctors told him he needed four weeks rest. Yesterday morning, a full two days before the India game, barely a week after the injury, the PCB - presumably with Younis's consent, more likely on his directives - announced he will play against India. Bravado indeed.
Given the opponent, it is likely he would've turned up had he lost a limb but nothing is ever to be assumed in Pakistan cricket; few people have forgotten just who didn't turn up for the 1996 World Cup quarter-final against India. "I am playing tomorrow. I was told four weeks rest but I want to take my chance tomorrow, playing against India. Maybe if it wasn't India I would've skipped this match. It's very easy for me to run away, I have a fracture and I can leave it, not play against India and Australia. But these are big games. If you don't perform in a big tournament you have to face consequences and it is very easy for me to run away here."
He is a chancer, for he believes that having tried something and failed is much more preferable than not having tried it at all. Not playing tomorrow is worse than playing and failing. And playing and succeeding is the glory of all glories. It is a choice that might dictate the inclusion or otherwise of Mohammad Asif, for example, and it is in these delicate balances of choice and decision that Younis is found.
"I am looking at the big picture, who knows I may perform tomorrow and that performance will be remembered because I played with a broken finger. If I score a hundred and become Man of the Match and win the match - that is the big picture. Not playing is no advantage at all. This is manageable, maybe with an injection tomorrow, but I might play in pain tomorrow.
"We're all used to playing in pain, and the motivation has to be there to get up and play for the country. I am not 100%, it will hamper my fielding and if I get hit I will be in pain but the big picture is, why not come out and do something like Sachin did in 2003, something for my country which they will remember me for ages."
He is a fascinating study; a strikingly honest man, hyper, stubborn, proud, sometimes vindictive and much worldlier than many of his team-mates. Currently, he is one of the few really good men in Pakistan cricket's setup. If he and his team fail tomorrow, he will front up and explain why they did. If there is success, he will turn up much the same. But turn up he will.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo