June 26, 2009

Why Younis Khan shouldn't have retired from Twenty20 cricket

Pakistan's captain may have announced his retirement from Twenty20 cricket, but stats suggest he is the perfect batsman for the format

"I'm old now for this kind of cricket." This was Younis Khan's assertion, and his justification for announcing his retirement from the shortest version of international cricket. There can be a case against that argument on the basis of Younis' age - he isn't 32 yet - but an even stronger case can be made on the basis of his approach as a batsman in the ICC World Twenty20.

As a leader he was always positive and inspirational, and as a batsman he was no less dynamic. Pakistan may have blown hot and cold over the course of the tournament, but Younis the batsman was on the ball from game one. In fact, his best performances came when the going was most difficult, in the two games that Pakistan lost. Against England, he played a lone hand with an unbeaten 46 off 31 balls even as the rest of the batting line-up crumbled; against Sri Lanka the story was similar, with Younis' 37-ball 50 the only major resistance during the run-chase of 151. (In the matches that Pakistan won, they did so with so much to spare that the captain was hardly called upon to do much with the bat.)

The key feature of Younis' batting was not only the runs he scored, but more the manner in which he made them. Against England he struck only five fours, and played out a mere seven dot balls. Against Sri Lanka the corresponding numbers were four and six. On the other hand, he ran seven twos in each of those innings. Both were perfect middle-overs innings, with the focus on minimising the risks, picking up gaps in the outfield, and ensuring that as many balls as possible were scored off. They were also the kind of innings that required a fair amount of fitness.

Younis finished the tournament with a healthy strike-rate of nearly 140 runs per 100 balls, but did so by collecting just 62 out of his 172 runs in fours and sixes. On the other hand, out of the 123 balls he faced, he allowed only 21 to go runless, an outstanding percentage of 17.07. Among batsmen who played at least 50 balls in the tournament, Younis' dot-ball factor was not only the best, but the best by a considerable distance - second-placed Ramnaresh Sarwan's dot-ball factor was 25%, almost 50% poorer than Younis'.

The table below is also an indication of why Pakistan are such a good Twenty20 side: there are four from the team among the 10 with the lowest dot-ball percentage. Add Shahid Afridi's amazing ball-striking abilities and the result is a pretty potent combination, as other bowling attacks found out in the competition. Only two other teams have more than one batsman in the list - West Indies have Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo, while England are represented by Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen, who's ranked just below his good friend Yuvraj Singh.

Lowest dot-ball percentage in the ICC World Twenty20 2009 (Qual: 50 balls faced)
Batsman Dot balls Total balls 4s, 6s Total runs % dot balls % runs in boundaries
Younis Khan 21 123 11, 3 172 17.07 36.05
Ramnaresh Sarwan 15 60 5, 0 68 25.00 29.41
Misbah-ul-Haq 19 70 4, 2 82 27.14 34.15
AB de Villiers 33 120 16, 6 186 27.50 53.76
Shahid Afridi 35 125 16, 3 176 28.00 46.59
Paul Collingwood 17 55 6, 0 63 30.91 38.10
Dwayne Bravo 33 106 12, 6 154 31.13 54.55
Shoaib Malik 45 140 12, 0 144 32.14 33.33
Yuvraj Singh 32 99 10, 9 153 32.32 61.44
Kevin Pietersen 33 101 19, 4 154 32.67 64.94

Younis' Twenty20 form isn't restricted to the World Twenty20 alone; his overall stats are pretty good as well, and he has been among the leading batsmen in this format for Pakistan. His overall dot-ball percentage isn't as good as it was in the World Twenty20, but it is still mighty impressive - 33.24, which among Pakistan batsmen is next only to the mercurial Afridi. Younis' average and strike-rate are more than acceptable for a middle-order batsman in a format that only allows 20 overs per innings.

Pakistan batsmen in Twenty20 internationals (Qual: 100 balls faced)
Batsman Runs Average Runs per over Dots Dot % 4s, 6s % runs in 4s, 6s
Shahid Afridi 371 19.52 8.97 75 30.24 33, 12 54.99
Younis Khan 432 28.80 7.49 115 33.24 31, 12 45.37
Shoaib Malik 527 31.00 7.05 151 33.71 41, 13 45.92
Misbah-ul-Haq 504 45.81 7.30 142 34.30 31, 19 47.22
Kamran Akmal 356 23.73 7.39 125 43.25 27, 15 55.62
Imran Nazir 201 33.50 9.00 64 47.76 18, 13 74.63
Salman Butt 328 25.23 5.80 164 48.38 33, 6 51.22
Mohammad Hafeez 174 19.33 7.10 73 49.66 23, 3 63.22

Pakistan won 16 out of the 22 matches he played (they lost five and tied one), but Younis had a higher average in the matches the team lost, thanks largely to his two efforts against England and Sri Lanka in the recent World Twenty20. Among his efforts in wins, the best was against Sri Lanka, again - a 35-ball 51 in the 2007 World Twenty20, which was the only occasion he won the Man-of-the-Match award for his batting. He did win the award one other time in his career, but that was for figures of 3 for 18 against Kenya in a quadrangular tournament in Nairobi.

Younis Khan in matches won and lost
  Innings Runs Average Strike rate
In wins 14 309 25.75 129.83
In losses 5 121 30.25 121.00

Among batsmen with whom he batted at least five times, Younis' best partner was Misbah. In six innings the two batsmen added 268 runs at an excellent average and strike-rate. The pair were remarkably consistent too, with three half-century stands, and another that yielded 48. Younis had some pretty good stands with Shoaib Malik as well, and Shoaib and Misbah will probably be expected to handle much of the middle-order responsibility when Pakistan play their next Twenty20 international, without Younis Khan.

Younis' partnerships in Twenty20 internationals
Partner Innings Runs Average stand Runs per over
Misbah-ul-Haq 6 268 44.67 8.04
Shoaib Malik 10 266 26.60 7.86
Shahid Afridi 5 97 24.25 9.09
Salman Butt 6 70 11.67 5.31

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo