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November 30, 2006
A typically elegant, clipped on-drive for four off Corey Collymore took Mohammad Yousuf from 44 to 48 on the fourth day of the final Test between Pakistan and the West Indies at Karachi. A modest raise of the bat acknowledged that the drive also took him past one of the longest-standing records in cricket, of most runs in a calendar year.
Sir Viv Richards scored 1710 runs in 1976, a memorable run during which he hit two double hundreds against England in England and the closest anyone had come to it since was Ricky Ponting in 2005, with 1544 runs.
By day's end, Yousuf added another century to the eight he had made already this year. He told reporters at the end of the day, "God has helped me break this record and I am extremely happy and proud for my country because whenever the record is discussed now, it will be with the name of a Pakistani batsman."
The day began with Yousuf needing a further 47 runs to break the record and knowing it too. "I was under a little pressure in the morning," he admitted. "I knew what had to be done and luckily I was able to do it in the end."
Yousuf's final tally for the year is 1788 runs from 11 Tests, and 665 of them have come from the series against West Indies, the highest tally recorded by a Pakistani batsman in a three-Test series. He began his run with two hundreds in the home series against India. He only played a solitary Test in Sri Lanka, personally an unmemorable one, but a double century at Lord's sparked off a stunning second half of the year.
Two more hundreds came from the remaining three Tests in England, including 192 at Headingley. He ended the year with three hundreds in three Tests against the West Indies at home.
During the course of this magnificent run, a few more records fell. His first-innings hundred at Karachi meant that he had scored eight Test hundreds this year alone, going past the previous best of seven, held jointly by Richards and Aravinda de Silva. By scoring five hundreds in five consecutive Tests, he also became only the third man, along with Jacques Kallis and Sir Don Bradman (six hundreds in six Tests) to do so.
Yousuf also had praise for Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, and Mushtaq Ahmed for the part they have played in his game over the last year. "I changed the way I practiced. Mushy really helped during the England tour and in India," he said. "He made me practice with slabs to be able to play rising deliveries better and that has really helped.
"Since Bob has been with us, he has really sorted out my balance. I used to have some problems with it before but he has really helped me set it properly now and it was a big change."
Comparisons with greats were avoided as deftly as bouncers have been over the last year. When asked to compare himself with Javed Miandad, Yousuf said only, "It is difficult to compare. You are either better or worse and anyway, it is for the media to decide. I can't say anything about it. But he is my ideal." And when the question of Sir Don Bradman's record of six hundreds in six consecutive Tests reared its head, Yousuf replied, with some cheek, "I have six in five Tests, so you decide."
Reactions to the record
It is a marvellous achievement. I have had the honour of playing against Viv Richards and coaching Yousuf. Both are very different in their styles, Viv was a lot more aggressive and Yousuf more sedate but to break Viv's record is really an outstanding achievement.
It's excellent and slightly unbelievable what he has achieved. Nine hundreds in a year and that many runs is just magnificent. He is a very committed player and an excellent role model, not just for Pakistan but for young cricketers everywhere. He's had an amazing year, though the last 600 runs that he has scored I haven't really enjoyed.
The most striking thing about Yousuf at the moment is that it is as if he is batting in a trance. He is so calm at the crease and that mental change is the most striking change from last year. You know people will say that he played on flat tracks, against weak attacks at times but that is neither here nor there. He still had to break a big record and he has done it. What's good to see, apart from the calm demeanour, is that he is, like all good batsmen, cashing in on good form and making the most of that period."
Pakistan is very proud of his achievements and he will be honoured by the PCB after the match.
We are proud of what he has done and I hope this is the start of of something great for him.
He's been absolutely brilliant this year and has done it against good teams in India, England and the West Indies and has done it home and away. I don't think he has made any technical adjustments as such, but he is so sound mentally now. Religion has played an integral part in his growth not just as a cricketer but as a person. I used to doubt his ability to see Pakistan through in situations before but he has rescued Pakistan from precarious positions through the year. A superb achievement.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the 4th ODI between England and India at Edgbaston