Pakistan in India / Features

India v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 5th day

Reluctant captain, capable leader

On the final day of the second Test, Younis, albeit filling the captain's post in the absence of Shoaib Malik, showed tremendous leadership

Anand Vasu in Kolkata

December 4, 2007

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Despite the fact that Pakistan were battling for a draw, Younis Khan played a positive innings which included a reverse-sweep to reach his century © AFP
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If you want to know the difference between leadership and captaincy, look no further than Younis Khan. In Pakistan, traditionally the captaincy is such a coveted position that players are jostling for it and stories of behind-the-scenes machinations are plentiful. Younis is different in that he has given up the captaincy more than once. The first time, it was because he didn't quite see eye to eye with Shahryar Khan, the then chairman of the board, and did not want to be a powerless captain.

Later, soon after the World Cup, almost everyone agreed that Younis was the best option to lead the side after Inzamam-ul-Haq. But then, at a reception marking his wedding, in his hometown in Mardan, a group of fans, disappointed at Pakistan's loss in the World Cup, brought a donkey to the place where the reception was being held, and asked Younis to ride it. His confidence in fans, and their propensity for reacting sharply to losses, ensured that he dropped any notions of accepting the captaincy of the Pakistan team.

But on the final day of the second Test, Younis, albeit filling the captain's post in the absence of Shoaib Malik, showed tremendous leadership. About an hour after lunch, at 78 for 4, Pakistan were in serious trouble, with a chance of being skittled out and handing the game for India. This is the sort of situation in which most batsmen would have bedded down and done their best to stonewall. But Younis is different.

With the pitch taking turn, albeit only out of the rough, and even in that slow turn, Younis decided to be positive. Anil Kumble had set attacking fields, with at least three men round the bat and virtually all others inside the 30-yard circle. Younis began with two strident drives through midwicket, off Kumble, making the most of the yawning gaps in the outfield. While staying on the front foot against Kumble, thereby reducing the chance of being out lbw to one of Kumble's trademark sliders, Younis went right back to Harbhajan Singh, using the depth of the crease well and cutting when the ball was a bit short.

It's not as though the fast bowlers had better luck. When Zaheer Khan bent his back and sent down a bouncer, Younis did not let it sail harmlessly by. Instead he pulled, rolling the wrists over the ball, ensuring that he wasn't merely safe but was putting runs on the board as well. As his innings built, and Kumble and Harbhajan grew more frustrated at the realisation that this pitch was not going to break up, Younis really cut loose.

While Kamran Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq celebrated their centuries in the traditional manner, falling to the ground and touching their foreheads to the earth, Younis held his bat above his head, like a weight-lifter would a barbell, and pumped it up and down. Apparently, it was a sign to David Dwyer, the physiotherapist of the Pakistan team, who has introduced Younis to a weight-training regime

He went from 93 to 97 with a ferocious pull off Kumble that rattled the advertising hoardings at midwicket. And then, with Harbhajan firing the ball into the rough, Younis unfurled the reverse-sweep, connecting cleanly to send the ball to the point boundary and reach triple figures. Not too many people battling for a draw, close to a century, would attempt a reverse-sweep. But then Younis is a different sort of guy.

While Kamran Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq celebrated their centuries in the traditional manner, falling to the ground and touching their foreheads to the earth, Younis held his bat above his head, like a weight-lifter would a barbell, and pumped it up and down. Apparently, it was a sign to David Dwyer, the physiotherapist of the Pakistan team, who has introduced Younis to a weight-training regime. Younis believes that this training has helped his fitness levels increase so dramatically that it has translated into runs.

Fitness or not, with this knock Younis has now scored three fourth-innings centuries in his last four Tests, making a serious difference to Pakistan's fortunes. "I think character is exactly the right word," Geoff Lawson said when describing how Younis, and Pakistan, had hung on for a draw. A match that began poorly for Pakistan had just ended in relief. "For much time on day three in this Test match we were in all sorts of trouble. But the three batsmen then, and again today, showed a ton of character."

"We are happy with the way we fought back, in the end of the first innings and in the second," was all Younis said at the end of the Test. "India won a good toss and played really well to make over 600. But, when Misbah and Kamran fought back, we were confident that we could draw this game." On the final day he backed up that confidence with execution.

Anand Vasu is an associate editor at Cricinfo

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