Ind v Pak, Champions Trophy, Group A, Centurion September 26, 2009

Oldtimer Yousuf plays ideal supporting act

Mohammad Yousuf's knock may have lacked the thrills and frills, but his retro one-day classic allowed Shoaib Malik to bat freely and scythe India

Oftentimes, there is nothing like an old head. The call for youth is always insistent in sport and it is in the end their gig. But sometimes situations are such that you need someone who has been there, done that and got the beard to show for it.

Shoaib Malik was the man who thrust Pakistan to their win tonight and a deserved the Man of the Match. But ushering him along for much of it, in fact, the man who dragged him out of the timidity that held him for so long and made his innings possible was Mohammad Yousuf; the man, so to speak, behind the successful man.

The last few years have not been for Yousuf what they should've been after the miracle year of 2006. The rise of Twenty20 has shaken his core. The ICL dalliance was ill-advised and though he returned to the Test side this year, his place in the ODI side was slipping. He was dropped from the ODIs in Sri Lanka and many were those who thought he shouldn't be coming to South Africa.

Even after he got here, he scratched around against West Indies and calls for his head began in Pakistan. And you could see why, for he has been out of it in pyjamas. His fielding is poor and all types of pumped, young power hitters have taken over cricket. But who in Pakistan could've played the innings that Yousuf played tonight, the very innings that Pakistan needed?

Trouble was coming at him from everywhere. Wickets had gone down, the run-rate was plummeting and his partner was comatose; incidentally his partner was also the man he blamed for his ouster from the side and move to the ICL. This was against India, in a Champions Trophy. And all he did was keep his head, his old head, and play as he does and as he always has.

The singles came first because just before his arrival, Pakistan had made only five runs in five overs and all but squandered an unusually hectic start. They were never to stop; 51 in all, many to his favourite areas in third man, square leg and deep point. He is one of the few batsmen in the side adept at doing so and as soon as he got in, he got a groove going, giving the innings some rhythm.

He was barely noticeable mostly, occasionally reminding everyone of his presence with a boundary such as a lift over midwicket off Virat Kohli before going diligently back to the singles. The next came much later, a dink just past the wicketkeeper and it was only after the 30th over that he decided the pace could be upped.

Youth will have its day, it always does. But the day once belonged to those now old and sometimes, often when it is most needed, they will own it, just to show us that they still can

Malik by then was also opening up. At one stage he was 36 off 72 balls, not finding gaps or the middle of his bat or runs, and had he gotten out then, it would've been a monumental waste. But as Yousuf pushed on, he took Malik along and they went side-by-side, matching each other run for run through their 20s, 30s, 40s right till their 50s, achieved within an over of each other. Having taken him along this far, having wound him up, Yousuf simply let Malik go, to bludgeon and scythe India.

Yousuf ensured his pace never relented, ticking along, occasionally remembering to check in with a boundary. Seven came in all, beautiful ones each: he lofted RP Singh over extra cover, then square drove him, before lifting Harbhajan Singh over cover. But his real currency was strike-rotation and he ran singles quicker than he has done for some time.

Andrew Strauss, who has had to deal with poor running in his side in recent weeks, says batsmen run better and with more confidence once they are set, even those who are poor runners. Yousuf will agree, whose high number of run-outs hide the fact that he is an astute judge of a run once he has settled at the crease.

Ninety-one runs came between overs 31 and 41 in this manner, a Twenty20 rate an in old-fashioned way, and it was the winning of the game. When he finally went, slogging, he left behind a retro one-day classic, with no power mis-hits, no cheeky scoops or switch hits or convoluted paddles. There were no sixes, yet he went at a run-a-ball.

Youth will have its day, it always does. But the day once belonged to those now old and sometimes, often when it is most needed, they will own it, just to show us that they still can.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Albert on September 28, 2009, 18:41 GMT

    Albert Stevens

    Hey did any one noticed, how the indian opener fought with the crowd on his way back, I am sure had it been Afridi, he would have been slapped with a 4 match suspension. It was gautam right? Are you people dooped or this is it, India is paying everything off. No WADA for indian players also talk about some are equal and others are more equal.

  • shiraz on September 28, 2009, 12:37 GMT

    Hassan Farooqi sahib Yousuf doesn't sacrifices hs wicket for team glory. Actually that is one of his problems. He got bowled trying to play the cut shot and if u see the video he was very upset on that. I am not a big fan of Yousuf in one day cricket as he has some major fitness issues but he played great against india so i have to give him that...especially that diving catch by him i have never seen him give that kind of effort in fielding. Its amazing that fear of being dropped can make u really play hard.

  • Hassan on September 28, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    anderson2010, are you kidding when you say Pakistan won due to umpiring error? The match would have been one sided had it not been due to an umpiring error AGAINST Pakistan. After Aamir got the Indian god Tendulker early, Rana Naved had gotten early the only Indian firecracker Ghambir LBW quite plum. Replays after replays showed it as a "blunder". Had the umpire not made the blunder and Ghambir had gone early like Tendulker, then Indian wickets would have fallen like pin balls and the result would have been one sided. It is time India got rid of their gods and start appreciating silent contributors like Dravid.

  • RAZA on September 28, 2009, 8:21 GMT

    Yes Its always great to see Yousaf in form, He is a great player of both One day & Test form of cricket. And the most important thing is that most of his innings when he played well and scored, they always lead Pak to the victory. Welldone Sir.

  • Touseef on September 28, 2009, 6:10 GMT

    Muhammad Yousuf is no doubt one of the greatest batsman of all time...

  • zman on September 28, 2009, 4:34 GMT

    Yousef and Malik played one of the best innings i have ever seen them play against a strong opposition like India. I hope other batsmen in our (pakistani) team especially the OPENER's can take a page out of both their books and up their level of game and be more responsible. Oh yeah can someone please KNOCK some SENSE into Afridi..WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING" you got 4 to 5 overs left in our last powerplay and he's hitting every ball like it's the last over..we could have made another 20 to 30 runs had he stayed for 2 overs.. i know i know he plays like this but i've seen him be more "RESPONSIBLE" in recent series/games (yes i said the "R" word) when he's been batting.. I was expecting he would show at least 10 min of Sanity vs 10 Seconds of it like in his younger days...although he's been in the mid to late twenties age range since the last 10 yrs hehee..

  • shamsuddin on September 27, 2009, 23:09 GMT

    it is good to see yousuf and malik getting into groove.the only thing pakistan now lacks is that their openers should make solid start and bat atleast upto 11-12 the bowling department umar gul should return to form or must be replaced with asif who should be given a chance.since it is almost like a knock-out tournament and one wrong decision could send u out of the tournament.i think in the fielding dept they have improved in the recent past.doing better in that could bring them vital breakthroughs and give them the edge in pressure situations and save would be great if pakistan wins the tournament.

  • charly on September 27, 2009, 22:46 GMT

    Interesting admission from the captain MS Dhoni who said he has never seen so many runs scored from the cut shot in a match.

    so i guess that made a big difference in pak winning

  • Rajamani on September 27, 2009, 20:10 GMT

    Yousuf will make it every time an all time Pakistan eleven is compiled. Today there is no one else in Pakistan who can play both fast bowling and spin with his assurance and with aplomb. He is also a caresser of the ball as opposed to being a mere slogger and can artistically despatch bowling to untenanted parts of the field consistently. He should be considered Pakistan's equivalent to India's Gundappa Vishwanath. A higher compliment than that is rare.

  • Aatif on September 27, 2009, 19:48 GMT

    Indeed ... the old men rise to the occasion when it needed the most. I saw their inning ball by ball and was just amazed to see a classic act after such a long time. A classic One Day innings. And the Innings of Yousaf and Malik is a slap on the face of those thinking of scarping this beautiful form of game i.e. ODI.

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