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Twenty20 will 'finish' Pakistan cricket - Mohammad Yousuf

Mohammad Yousuf has issued a stark warning to Pakistan cricket of the impending dangers of too much Twenty20 cricket

Mohammad Yousuf drives during his innings of 23, Pakistan v West Indies, Champions Trophy, Group A, Johannesburg, September 23, 2009

Too much Twenty20 cricket, Mohammad Yousuf has said, has affected the failure of the current players in the Pakistan team to adapt to the longer versions  •  Getty Images

Mohammad Yousuf has issued a stark warning of the impending dangers of too much Twenty20 cricket, insisting that it is "necessary" that Pakistan plays as little of the format as possible. Otherwise, the Pakistan captain told Cricinfo, he believes the format will "finish Pakistan's cricket."
Yousuf's counsel comes in the wake of Pakistan's defeat to Australia in the first Test in Melbourne, where their batsmen struggled on a placid pitch in a 170-run loss. Australia declared twice in the Test, but Pakistan were bowled out for 258 and 251 - the second after being 170-3. But his words come in a broader context: those totals continued a long run of sub-par performances by the batsmen in the Test arena; in 14 Test innings now, they have crossed 350 only twice.
They have struggled with their openers and their No.3 batsmen, and have been caught in a number of Test collapses through the year in Sri Lanka, New Zealand and now Australia. As in Melbourne, a number of batsmen have settled in, before getting themselves out. The failure, Yousuf believes, comes from Twenty20 cricket.
"It [batting failures] used to happen before but now because of Twenty20 cricket no player knows how to stay at the wicket anymore," Yousuf told Cricinfo. "Batsmen are finding it very difficult. I know the format has money, players get it and boards do but if Pakistan hypes up Twenty20 too much, Test and ODI cricket will really go down."
Pakistan are the reigning world champions in the format, having won the World Twenty20 in a stirring display in June in England. They reached the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007 and have the best win-loss ratio of all nations in the format. In Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq they have, arguably, the format's sharpest game-changers.
They were also one of the first countries to adopt the format domestically, holding wildly successful events in Lahore and Karachi in 2005 and 2006, and the first three years of the tournament attracted what many believed to be the largest domestic crowds ever in Pakistan. Additionally, a number of their players had successful first seasons with the IPL; they weren't allowed to participate in tournament's second edition, but a number of them are very keen to be involved next season and over 12 players have applied for a place in the auction. Afridi, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Gul and Sohail Tanvir have all played, or are playing Twenty20 cricket, for Australian state sides as well.
Most Pakistanis are brought up on a diet of 20-over cricket at club and street level. That, Yousuf believes, has left much of the current crop unsuited to the longer, unique demands of Test cricket and even ODI cricket. "Both in Tests and ODIs we have problems," Yousuf said. "We struggle to bat 50 overs. Against New Zealand [in Abu Dhabi] we couldn't make 212 in 50 overs. Everyone played shots and got out.
"Twenty20 is easy for Pakistanis because they know how to hit, nobody knows how to defend. Until players do not play with discipline and play ball to ball and leave balls they are supposed to we will struggle in ODIs, let alone Tests. If you see a ball, hit it because you have to score. But if you are going to slog all the time what is the point? I could have hit jumping out but unless you get a ball to hit what is the point? That is the point of Test cricket. It is necessary that Pakistanis, the media, the board, the fans realise that we play as little Twenty20 as possible.
"One domestic tournament is enough and a World Cup apart from that, but my belief is that you have to reduce Twenty20 heavily. They shouldn't play it in club cricket - even there you play 20 overs, not 40-over matches. I only have 2-3 years left in my career but I worry Twenty20 will finish Pakistan's cricket."
Yousuf himself has a strained relationship with the format. He was incensed at being dropped from Pakistan's squad for the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007 in South Africa. Having criticized the selectors for not picking him, he aligned himself with the ICL, before being lured back into the Pakistan fold by the board. But once he was overlooked for another multi-nation Twenty20 tournament in Toronto in August 2008, he signed up with the ICL again, playing a few unsuccessful games for the Lahore Badshahs, before finally quitting and coming back to the Pakistan side earlier this year.
Alongside Younis Khan, Yousuf has been Pakistan's most reliable and successful Test batsman during and after the Inzamam-ul-Haq era. And with Younis and Javed Miandad, he is the only Pakistan batsman with a 50-plus Test average. His worries are the pre-eminent factor behind his request for Younis on this tour, though authorities in Pakistan have yet to accede to that.
"You look at England, South Africa and Australia. They give Test cricket and ODIs the attention they deserve," Yousuf said. "Until we do the same, we will not progress. They also play Twenty20 but they do it in a controlled way. In our country we only want to play Twenty20 and no Tests. I think we have given up on Test cricket: either we look for the money or we look to revive Pakistan cricket."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo