May 12, 2017

'You have full faith in a guy like that'

Misbah-ul-Haq
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq talks about playing alongside Younis Khan: his batting, his practice, his ability to read situations, and more

"His disciplines, his routines, on the field, in training, in his personal life - it is what has made him a great batsman" © Getty Images

Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan; in the company of some of the most celebrated Pakistani pairings - Imran and Javed, Wasim and Waqar, Hanif and Fazal - they don't shine any less bright. They are now playing in their last Test, together, having done more than any others in the last six years to ensure that Pakistan competed. Here, each tells us what they thought of the other and what made them tick. Over to Misbah:

Before I took over the captaincy, whenever Younis and I were together, for Pakistan or anywhere, we used to talk about how, when our time came, what we would do to make things right, what we would do to improve. We were together as newcomers in the Pakistan team for a bit early on and we always knew what things we'd like to change. We talked about, for example, looking after a youngster in the side, to see how he is coping, how he is being treated, how to make him feel more a part of the side, how to look after him, to give him a comfortable environment, how seniors should treat him.

We talked about how we would show them how we train, to set a pattern for them. He used to say, when it is our time, we will do things this way, not that way. And then when that time came, in 2010, we tried to go through on those things. We tried to create the environment on and off the field that we spoke about.

The captaincy was never an issue between us. It was not something I had ever run after. And I also knew what Younis Khan was like. I knew it didn't matter that he wasn't captain because he would still give everything he had for the team. Without any doubt. Whatever help he could give, whatever he could do for players, he would. I've always had full support from him. Whenever we have needed an innings from him, whenever we have needed him, he has come good. You have full faith in a guy like that, that he will get us out of trouble.

Through all the years that I've known him, he has remained, at heart, the same. He was very firm with the principles he based his cricket and life on. Those are unchanged: that he's always kept his affairs very organised, that he has maintained strict discipline about his career, that he has wanted to come across a certain way on the field, that he will always make newer players comfortable, that he will make greater effort with them. He is still like this. The main pillars and principles on which a man stands, those have always been very, very clear for him.

That has been the reason for his success. His disciplines, his routines, on the field, in training, in his personal life - it is what has made him a great batsman. That and his belief - he always believed, in every situation, whatever the circumstances. Can't make hundreds in the fourth innings? I'll do it. Can't chase that much in the fourth innings? I'll do it. Green pitch? Let me bat on it. That's where his greatness begins.

Then, from what I have seen, the key has been his routines either in practice or matches. He has to go through those every day. He is so structured about everything: he has to play his first 15 balls a certain way, so that is how he will practise it. Then the period to start cashing in, so he will practise that too. He knows his plans inside out - how to face certain bowlers, how many overs are left, what to do in the next ten overs, when the new ball is due, where he should be in terms of personal targets at every stage. It's like a computer programme. That is why his conversion rate is so high. If your routines are set like that, you end up reducing the pressure.

"Can't chase that much in the fourth innings? I'll do it. Green pitch? Let me bat on it. That's where his greatness begins" © AFP

He has played so many great innings in this time. The 171 in Pallekele stands out. It just didn't look like the score could be chased. We were two down for nothing and he wasn't scoring. Then he just tweaked his trigger-movement a touch, just for this innings to their medium-pacers, and you saw the result.

There's so many more - the double at The Oval, another in Zimbabwe, when we were in deep trouble. And these were crucial ones, without which we could've lost.

That is why he was such a great partner for me, as well as such a great partnership batsman generally. He believes in every player's method and technique. Every player has his own way. To any bowler, I face one way, Younis Khan faces his own way. But he never tried to say to any youngster: you do it this way, you do it that way. He understands that others will tackle a situation differently, so let's both just do it our own way.

And he understood situations beautifully. If he saw one bowler causing problems to his partner, without even saying anything, he would start taking that bowler on, attacking him. When you came in, without him saying so, he would chart out a way to getting runs. So many times his partner would near a milestone and Younis would know instinctively which bowler his partner might be more comfortable against. So he would immediately engineer the situation to benefit the partner - a quick single, a double, whatever it took.

We had many big partnerships but one that always stands out for me is one of our first ones, in Kolkata in the 2007-08 series. It was a relatively small partnership (of 49) but there was huge turn and Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble were causing problems. He was playing his own way and I was counterattacking, and though he got out quickly, it was an important one. The 2010 one was one of the best though - the pressure, the scenario of the match. That was the beginning of our contributions.

When we would field, he was a great help for the bowlers. In slips he really studied the batsmen, their movements, backlift, bat speed, how the feet were moving, so he would give really good, detailed inputs to the bowlers. In particular, he was great with Yasir Shah and Saeed Ajmal, about their pace and lines.

In the dressing room, he didn't usually talk too much. Neither did he interfere in the broader planning. When he had an idea he would come up, and usually it would not be something that was at odds, or changed the bigger plans. If he knew I was trying something on the field, he would occasionally provide a little bit of his input. That's how he operates.

Read Younis on Misbah here

As told to ESPNcricinfo

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