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Can Younis Khan save Pakistan in Sydney?

Updated January 06, 2017

The ball is pitched well outside off stump, but the long arms of Younis Khan reach for it as he sweeps Nathon Lyon towards deep backward square leg for four runs.

The bat swing makes an immaculate semi-circle, while his back leg is securely planted inside the crease.

It is like an architect using his pencil compass while designing the blue print of a masterpiece.

For Younis, it is just bread and butter.

The boundary brings up Younis’s first hundred in Australia, as he becomes the only man in history to score a Test century in eleven different countries.

He takes his helmet off and hugs his partner Sarfraz Ahmed. He points his bat to his team in the balcony and then to the crowd.

His son is animated in celebration as his wife claps from the stands.

He rushes back towards the keeper, kneels on one leg and takes his gloves off. He carries a handkerchief in his pocket to wipe the sweat off his face, arms and hands.

It seems he is pushing the reset button.

There are no dramatic celebrations, or prostration on ground. Younis knows that his country needs him to carry on, and you can tell that he means business. He knows his responsibility, and his job is far from over.

Younis being Younis, he underplays his achievement as he puts his helmet back on and is ready to face the next delivery without further ado.

What he has done is no mean feat. He had long been in the company of the best in the business of scoring hundreds around the world, but now he sits on top of that pyramid.

Only Rahul Dravid, Alastair Cook and Sir Don Bardman have scored a hundred in every country they have played in. But none of them had the opportunity to play Test cricket in 11 different countries.

Sri Lankan legends Kumar Sangakara and Mahela Jayawardene played in all eleven countries, but missed out on a ton in West Indies and South Africa respectively. On his first outing in South Africa, Mahela perished on 98, and he never crossed fifty again in the next fifteen innings in the country.

The big surprises are Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Hashim Amla who have not been able score a hundred in five out of the eleven countries of play. While Shiv has ended his career, Amla still has time to make amends.

The moment when Younis makes history:

Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, arguably the greatest batsmen of their generation, were also not able to get to triple digits in all of the Test playing nations. Lara scored two fifties in India, and came perilously close when he was caught behind on 91. Sachin too crossed the half way mark twice in Zimbabwe, but failed to convert.

The mark of a great player is conversion. When their eye is set, they get a big one. The hunger, the patience, the calmness and tranquility they display on a slow afternoon session are beyond that of an average player. It is what separates the men from the boys. When set, they seem impossible to dislodge.

As the great Sunil Gavaskar says, when you get to a hundred, always take a fresh guard. Reset the odometer and concentrate as if you have just arrived.

And every time the man from Mardan goes past 50, odds are he will go past 100, truly Bradman-esque.

Baring the Don, Younis is also more likely to score a hundred than any other batsman.

One of the first things checked when judging a player, is his ability to perform in all conditions, circumstances, and against all oppositions. But no matter how great a cricketer, there is almost always an Achilles heel to his story.

For all of Shane Warne’s greatness, his visits to India usually brought him misery. And Mutiiah Muralitharan’s magic never worked in Australia. Even the legend Sachin Tendulkar is accused of having a below par 4th innings average.

Younis too has his follies with his lack of footwork against genuine pace and lateral movement. And then there are those days when he jumps like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Usually, all that Younis needs to do is spend some time at the crease. Once he gets his balance right, everything else falls in place.

Younis also has the highest number of catches for Pakistan and boasts the highest average of any Pakistani batsman ever. Apart from Bradman, he is the only batsman on the lists above with a career average of over 50 in all four innings of Test cricket. And he has more fourth inning centuries than anyone ever.

His statistics are staggering. Yet, his real legacy is beyond numbers.

He is a true patriot at heart, and one of the few gentlemen in modern day cricket who walk before the umpire raises his finger.

He has been a role model for an entire generation of young Pakistani batsman. Especially Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali, who have a combined total of 4050 runs, at an average of 64 runs in partnership, with a hundred run stand 14 times with their mentor.

The morning of day 3 was washed out and Younis walked out to bat with Yasir Shah in the afternoon session. Pakistan needed 67 runs to avoid following on. And Younis being Younis shepherded Shah like he has done with so many before.

Refusing singles early in the over, and taking them late. Hitting massive sixes and trademark cover drives. The ninth wicket partnership added of 51 runs and lasted an equally important 66 minutes.

When the last wicket went down, Younis was standing tall on 175 at the non-strikers end. Only 36 runs short for the magical 10,000 run mark. But knowing Younis, there must have been more important things on his mind.

A win for Pakistan is almost impossible, but Younis has given his country a chance to draw the game.

Pakistan is on a consecutive losing streak of five Test matches, and has never lost six in a row in its entire history.

There are chances that it will rain in Sydney tomorrow. But there are also high chances that Younis will be back at the crease within the next 24 hours, trying to save Pakistan again. Maybe even later in the day today.

Can Younis be Younis, one more time for his country?


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