Jarrod Kimber

How Younis endures through the turmoil

The tireless regularity of Younis Khan's run-scoring has provided Pakistan with a sense of certainty, something that the nation has lacked for a very long time

Jarrod Kimber
Jarrod Kimber
There is almost no certainty in life. In Pakistan life, even less so. But when one man presses forward in that familiar warm hug of a forward defense, the whole nation, for at least one minute, has some respite. Younis Khan could stay in that forward defense for an hour his balance is so flawless. Younis Khan has stayed in that position for 15 years.
There is certainty when Younis comes down to the spinners, you know he will hit the ball in that Pakistani bottom-hand way, which should slice high in the air, but actually flies back past bowler, umpire, mid-on and mid-off. Often at gasp-inducing height, but rarely anywhere near a catch. His right shoulder will end up in front of his left, the bat will not come down straight, his steps are hurried and will end with his feet splayed. But the ball is gone, the spinner has been told.
There is certainty that something that shouldn't happen to Pakistani cricket, will happen to it. Younis will outlast it. He will speak his mind. He will tough it out. He will overcome. He will do his job. He is a good man - he is a good man when times are good, he is a good man when times are bad, he is a good man when times are Pakistani. There will be a grit of the teeth. There will be deep breaths. There will be runs.
There is certainty that when the ball is full and straight, Younis will drive it, on drive it. His head will stay in line with the ball, his bat, as always, will be in front of the pad, and his back foot will swing away coyly just as he punches the ball. He will run out on the offside of the pitch, still watching the ball as if he's afraid of some kind of trick will send it back to him. Instead it makes steady progress just past the umpire.
There is certainty that Younis will score. He will dab and run, he will guide and stroll, he will turn and amble, and he will drop and sprint., He will move his wrists, he will get inside the ball, stay outside the ball, get on top of the ball, and always wait for the ball. The gaps in the field will come to him. He will spend much of his time, left hand on hip, having a break, at the non-striker's end.
There is certainty when a wide, full ball is offered. Younis doesn't look quick, but it's almost as if the ball slows down to wait for him, as if he and the ball have an understanding. By the time the ball does arrive, Younis' back leg is down kissing the pitch behind him, he will simply play through the line and wait for the fielder to retrieve the ball. If the ball isn't full and wide, he will run down the wicket outside leg stump and make it so. The ball will learn its lesson.
There is certainty when Pakistan need someone, anyone, to stand up and stop a collapse it will be Younis. Bringing a level of calm to a country that feasts on energy, madness and movement. First he will relax his batting partners, then he will subdue the bowlers and then he will bat until the job is done. Then they will praise him.
There is certainty that, when the ball is short and wide, Younis will stop his forward movement, swing back his chest, and then thrust his arms to play a slap on the ball. As if he knows that no one is going to stop this ball. It could be from the 1950s, or the 1980s, eras that men like Younis often exist in. He is not a modern batsman, it is not a modern cut shot. A cut shot out of time, on time, everytime.
There is certainty when Younis raises his bat. It is an old man, thanking his supporters. It was that way even when he was a young man. His eyes always look tired, like they have lived, survived and thrived in other times before this one. They never look like they can handle one more ball, but they always do.
There is certainty when Younis decides to sweep. He is so far down the wicket that, at times, it's as if he is sweeping from the bowler's hand. The bowler is barely into his follow through and Younis' hands are moving quicker than you can see. He will sweep from straight, from outside off stump, from outside the ground if he wants to. The short leg will evade. The deep-backward square will turn his head to the left. The umpire will signal four.
There is certainty when Pakistan need someone, anyone, to stand up and stop a collapse it will be Younis
There is certainty that there is controversy in Pakistani society. There is political interference. There are drugs. There is conflict. There is outside interference. There is death. There is match-fixing. There are jail cells. There is terrorism. There is homelessness. There is the need for Younis Khan.
There is certainty that when Younis wants to, a spinner will go to deep midwicket. Maybe he will drop his knee from his crease and just hump the ball. Maybe he will run at it, then hoick. Perhaps it will be that right hand winning and taking the ball from straight to midwicket. Or even some weird hybrid of all three. But the ball gets there, fast and aerial. Another perfectly respectable stock spin delivery has gone.
There is certainty that, if Pakistan has been winning a Test in the last 15 years, Younis has been something to do with it. Maybe it was selection. Maybe it was as a leader. Maybe it was as a nurturer. Maybe it was as a catcher. Maybe, probably, definitely, it was with the bat. It was just in front of his pad, it was just in front of Pakistan. It was the closest thing his nation have had to certainty in cricket for a very long time.
There is certainty. There is Younis Khan. Nine thousand runs, and counting.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber