Younis Khan has responded to Pakistan's first Test series defeat in Sri Lanka by pleading for more time to rebuild the team after "very little cricket over the last 18 months". Speaking after a game in which Pakistan's batting collapses tilted the balance towards Sri Lanka, Younis said he didn't want to put blame on any individual - the team was lacking by just 20%, failing to stay focused throughout the games and while facing pressure situations.
"It's very easy right now to write this team off," he said, "But how many Tests have we played in the last 14 months? For one full year we didn't play at all. As and when we start playing more regularly, we will learn to adapt. I think it's not about the technique, not about the bowling, not about the weather.
"Give this team some time, don't point fingers too early. It will be very easy for me too to blame particular players, even myself. But the reality is, we haven't been playing any Test cricket. It's very easy for me to give up, to say I can't captain this team. But somebody will have to stand up and fix the situation."
Before the start of the series, Younis had said that being undercooked should not be an excuse for international teams. But three heart-breaking collapses later, Younis said it was time to analyse the situation, and that he concluded thus not as Pakistan captain but as an analyst. "Out of the four matches we have played, one was stopped midway, one we drew, and lost two," he said. "And that too it felt like we were not beaten, we lost them ourselves. So I am not looking for excuses but for reasons. And this is one of the major reasons."
The irony of the situation, though, is that it was not the youngsters, the debutants, who let the team down. It was the experienced pros who failed all three times to arrest the collapses. Younis saw that as one of the positives from the series. "This team is in a rebuilding phase," he said. "We had three debutants in the last match, and one in this. But if Saeed Ajmal is putting up a fight, if Abdur Rauf is putting up a fight, if Fawad Alam is putting up a fight, if Mohammad Aamer is putting up a fight, that gives me some solace. I will have to give them some time. So too the media and the fans."
Younis reiterated that the problem came from not finishing matches. "There is only 20% that we are lacking. If we play to our potential - everybody knows about us - we will start winning. It is all about concentration and how to adapt to conditions."
Over six and a bit days, Pakistan have had three disastrous sessions, while the other sessions have been full of heartening performances from their youngsters. Their bowling attack looks in good health, especially with an impending comeback of Mohammad Asif, and Ajmal and Danish Kaneria fighting for the spinner's slot. Yet they have lost the series, which can be a very demoralising experience.
Younis, though, wants to look ahead immediately, to the next Test. "What can I do? I can only ask them to focus for longer durations. After Tests we have to play one-dayers too. It will be every difficult if we go 2-0 down or 3-0 down. If we push more, keep pushing, we can win the last Test, which should give us a lot of motivation before the one-dayers. And if we can win both, we will get some satisfaction at least."
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo