Yousuf Youhana
Yousuf Youhana - the player under vigilance
Photo © CricInfo Ltd

The failure of Yousuf Youhana in the two tour matches against British Universities and Derbyshire has understandably sent ripples of anxiety in Pakistan's tour management. Being one of the most reliable and compact batsmen in Pakistan's batting line up, Yousuf is always a `case under study', a nucleus of attraction before and during every series Pakistan take part in.

A series against England, the pioneers of cricket, has always been considered a tough challenge by touring parties; the performance of every player is under strict review, good showings here almost always lead to glory and bad ones often prove harbingers of aborted careers.

Shoaib Akhtar is one such example. Since exploding in to the international arena, he had given quite a few eye-catching performances - a five-wicket haul against South Africa at Durban in 1997 and those two express deliveries getting rid of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid at Calcutta in 1999 are some of his daring deeds. But the man got worldwide fame and unprecedented adulation only after performing on England soil - during World Cup 1999.

Yousuf Youhana
Yousuf Youhana - the backbone of Pakistan middle order
Photo © CricInfo Ltd
So no wonder there's such strict vigilance over Youhana. The importance of this player in the Pakistan squad can be adjudged from Waqar's decision to send him to open Pakistan's second innings against Derbyshire - obviously an attempt on skipper's part to provide for maximum possible practice to the right-hander. This also indicates how frustrated and panicky a leader can become if one of his most able men is not performing to expectations.

Despite all this, Waqar must believe that the man in question is as good as any batsman should be, rather better than most of his contemporaries. His record in test cricket bears witness to his prowess and expertise. Since breaking into international cricket a few years ago, he has maintained a batting average of over 42, having made 2048 runs in 30 matches with the help of 6 hundreds and 12 fifties. So failure in a few games, significant only for providing practice and equipping budding home youngsters with international exposure, should not be a matter of too much anxiety.

We all know, and those who don't, must know that Youhana is a proficient batsman, perfectly capable of lifting his game and rediscovering form at any time. Moreover, it hasn't been wrongly said that while form is temporary, class is permanent, and Youhana is a class act by any standards.

For example, Ricky Ponting's performance in India can only be termed as bad. The stylish right-hander managed only 17 runs in five test innings, which is highly uncharacteristic of him. Yet Australia persisted with him, obviously because they had unflinching confidence in his abilities. What's more, he is on the list of players nominated for the coming Ashes.

Thus, similar confidence is needed in Youhana's case if Pakistan want to get the maximum out of him. It doesn't matter how he fares in side matches. The man is a `big-match player', and who knows he might well be saving his ammunition for the big match at Lord's!