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The flawed reverse-sweep will not stop replaying in Younis Khan's head for a while. It will haunt
Sidharth Monga at the P Sara Oval
July 14, 2009
Eat your heart out KP. Fret not, Misbah, you have company. For years to come, Younis Khan's reverse-sweep will be discussed, debated, derided, and blamed for the final collapse that cost Pakistan the match and the series. By the time you read this, that shot would have played thousands of times on the loop, reminding everyone of what could have been.
Consider the circumstance: Pakistan staged a comeback in true original style. After getting bowled out for 90 on the first morning, they bowled incredibly well to keep the deficit down to 150 following which the debutant Fawad Alam, opening for the first time in first-class cricket, scored a big century. Along with Fawad, Younis had added 200 for the second wicket to stretch the lead to 135. The bowling seemed at their mercy, a big target was on the cards, and the momentum was theirs.
Then the rush of blood to the head. Perhaps over-confidence against the spinners. It was the first ball of a part-time spinner's spell, and Younis inverted his stance. Out came a full toss outside leg, which he chased and connected with. On many occasions it would have lobbed behind the wicketkeeper but today it ricocheted off his right shoulder and went straight to the wicketkeeper, much like Kevin Pietersen's sweep off Nathan Hauritz in Cardiff last week. Pakistan duly collapsed, losing nine wickets for 35.
"Yes [it's replaying in my head]. I am still thinking if I hadn't played that shot, we would have been in a completely different situation," Younis said after Pakistan squandered all the hard work over the last two days.
It didn't answer the questions. Was he not thinking when he played the shot? Was he thinking too much? Did he feel he needed to dominate? Did he not know his undercooked team was prone to collapsing? The truth perhaps is that when you are batting in full flow these thoughts don't cross your mind. This was after all the same shot that he had so effectively employed repeatedly against the same team during his triple-hundred in Karachi earlier this year. Only against a much better spinner - Muttiah Muralitharan.
Still, Younis cannot hide. This shot will not stop replaying in his head and, for a while, it will haunt him. It will also probably hide the other factors responsible for the defeat. What, for example, of the rest of the batsmen, experienced campaigners most of them? For the third time in a row, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal were part of a collapse. That somehow will be forgotten when we look back at this Test two years from now.
"I have been saying for the last four-five years that if one person commits a mistake, the others shouldn't," Younis said. "If we hadn't added 200, then what would have happened? I don't point fingers at anybody - I never blamed Salman Butt [for throwing his wicket away in Galle]. This is a team game."
Or what of Daryl Harper's umpiring errors, which could make a case for hurrying in the era of umpire review systems? Or, for that matter, carrying reserve umpires on tours to replace a man in poor form. Harper didn't have a special Test in Galle, and today two of his four lbw calls looked decidedly wrong, and two appeared to have enough doubt.
It is also worth noting that the pitch did not have any monsters in it, which would mean that a set batsman didn't need to take risks and could think of playing out the game. The other argument would be that the pressure had already been lifted and put on the opposition. Logic will also suggest that for once the other batsmen should have fought the momentum swing. Allowance will be made for the way Shoaib Malik got out - many stronger blows to the stumps than this flying kiss have failed to dislodge the bails. In the end, though, we will come back to the shot Younis played.
We remember Sachin Tendulkar's attempt at an inside-out shot off Saqlain Mushtaq at Chennai in 1999, not the last three wickets falling for four runs. Pietersen's shot is still being talked about in greater length than England's toothless bowling. It's a cruel sport, and Younis will be reminded time and again of a task that he started so well but left unfinished because of a cute shot. One shot. No retake.
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