KARACHI: Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin felt that Younis Khan was struggling playing outside the crease, which compelled him to give the 38-year-old Pakistan veteran a phone call before the final Test against England at The Oval.
“Playing outside the crease in England is a difficult proposition because of the swing. So I called to tell him to stand in the crease which gave him gaps and he played fluently,” Azharuddin said while speaking to Geo News on Tuesday.
Younis had come up with an astonishing revelation after Pakistan’s 10-wicket win on Sunday when he told Mike Atherton that “a surprise phone call from Mohammad Azharuddin” made him alter his technique, which led him to register a first double-hundred in England.
Scoring a double-century at 38 is no easy task. This tells that Younis can go on till he wants.
Younis, who managed only two scores of 30-plus in the first three Tests, scored a prolific 218 in Pakistan’s first innings during the fourth Test, setting the platform for his team to level the Test series 2-2.
The 38-year-old veteran hit 31 fours and four sixes in his seven-hour stay at the crease. As Younis continued to dominate England bowlers, it looked like as if he was batting on one of the placid United Arab Emirates tracks.
“It was great of Younis to change his technique as per my instructions,” said Azharuddin, who last played for India against Pakistan in June 2000.
“I did not like when people talked about Younis in an adverse manner. He has done so much for Pakistan and has a lot of runs to his name,” said the 52-year-old.
Younis remained under severe criticism throughout the series as he, until the third Test, continued to jump and hop in an attempt to survive on fast seaming wickets. His newly-found technique was a topic of much concern with former cricketers as it deprived him from converting decent starts into big scores.
The experts were telling me to retire, whereas, Azhar highlighted the technical aspects. So whom should I have listened to?
Younis, however, said he was under pressure and that was the reason he could not live up to the expectations in earlier games.
“I got out in the first innings which should have been a good one. There was pressure on me to represent my country. That score of 30 must have been converted into a 50,” Younis said, referring to his 33-run innings during the first Test at Lord’s.
“There are some bad days and you learn from them. My career is in front of you. I scored a century in the first warm-up game. This has been a pattern of my career – the ups and downs.”
Why was it that Younis listened to Azharuddin’s advice?
“The experts were telling me to retire, whereas, Azhar highlighted the technical aspects. So whom should I have listened to?” said Younis.
He added that Azharuddin was a legendary batsman and played a crucial role in the rise of (Rahul) Dravid, Ajay Jadega, and (Sachin) Tendulkar.
“Azhar and I played against each other in a match at Sharjah and whenever I used to go to the mosque to offer prayers I found him there. We met very little as he was a very big player in comparison to me. I admired him and wanted to be a fielder like him,” Younis said.
Before his double-century at The Oval, many experts on TV suggested that it was time Younis should consider retiring from international cricket. Azharuddin, however, believed that the Pakistan veteran could still play for his country for another two to three years.
“Scoring a double-century at 38 is no easy task. This tells that Younis can go on till he wants. In fact, the Pakistan Cricket Board should ask Younis which match he wants to be his last and that game should be celebrated because of his services to Pakistan cricket,” Azharuddin said.