“Give me your top six modern era batsmen.”
As I sit in a trendy hipster cafe in Melbourne, this is the question I’d just had put to me.
“Well, it’s probably Hayden and Sehwag, Lara, Sachin, Steve Waugh and perhaps Kallis at 6.
Does the Pakistani legend rank among modern era’s top six batsmen?
Can I have Kallis at 6? No, he was more a number 4.
Oh, I forgot Ponting and Dravid.
Then there’s Sangakkara. He’s got to be a certain starter. But where to fit him in?
Warner deserves a run too I suppose. Does Mike Hussey qualify? AB de Villiers or Hashim?
Ask me this question again in three years time and we will need to include Virat, Steve Smith, Williamson and maybe Root.
I don’t actually think it’s possible to lock in a best 6.”
Not once is the name Younis Khan mentioned.
Pakistan tour Australia.
A 28-year-old Younis Khan arrives at the WACA averaging a rather mediocre 38.30.
This would be his 30th Test match. Most top order batsmen don’t get the luxury of playing this many Tests while holding such a mediocre record.
Within his team are Pakistani batting royalty.
Younis bats at first drop. The score is 1/32. Younis departs at 5/108. Pakistan make 179.
In the second innings he tries again. Out for 17. Pakistan reach 72. That’s it.
McGrath, Gillespie and Warne say: “Welcome to Australia mate!”
By the time the third Test in the series is complete, Younis has increased his average to 39.18
Australia won’t see him on their shores for another 11 years. Not that they expected he would ever return.
Just another plodder on the merry-go-round of plodders.
Fast forward those 11 years.
Younis leaves Australia having just deposited 175* into the scorebook.
When you are from Pakistan, playing India is all that matters.
Every other Test series is just background noise. A distraction.
March 2005 is his first Test series in India. Nothing from the preceding series in Australia hints that Younis will put up scores of 147, 267 and 84*. He also offers up a 9, 1 and a duck.
Go big or go home.
Younis can do both.
Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore is a hot, dry and intimidating place. When full of rabid locals wanting Indian blood, it becomes unforgiving. Just like the Libyan dictator that it is named after.
Younis comes in after only 13 balls have been delivered in the match.
He doesn’t leave until the score reaches 477.
“Yes. No. Wait ... sorry bhai”
That Shahid Afridi runs him out for 199 is stereotypical of Boom Boom, Younis and Pakistan all at once.
83 and 194 follow in the second Test.
0 and 77 in the third.
The man who will one day be crowned Pakistan’s greatest ever batsman had just proven his worth.
It isn’t Karachi or Lahore.
Only 250,000 people live there. It is a gentle two-hour drive to the Afghanistan border.
It has no world class cricket stadium.
Its links to the best of Pakistani cricket are slim.
Former PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf’s wife is from Mardan. Does that count?
There are 18 bigger cities in Pakistan than Mardan.
However, there aren’t 18 bigger sons of Mardan than Younis Khan.
All living organisms morph and change over time.
What was once a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
With Younis, what was once an upright batting stance becomes a crouch. Like a tiger. Ready to pounce.
Against England in 2016, it peaks as some kind of weird jumping crouching flailing batting porridge.
By the fourth Test, Pakistan trail the series 2-1.
Younis has spent this series jumping, crouching and flailing like a madman on stimulants. Threatening to strike. Pretending to bare his tigerish claws. But he hasn’t gone for the kill. Not yet.
Needing a win to draw the series and become the world’s number one Test side, Younis decides that now is his time.
When the road is at its worst, Younis is at his best.
Who ya gonna call? It›s not Ghostbusters anymore. It is Younis Khan.
218 runs of glory.
38 is no longer his batting average, but it is his age.
Sami Aslam is at the other end when Azhar Ali clubs the six that wins the match for Pakistan.
Sami Aslam was five years old when Younis made his Test debut.
Never again will push-ups feel so sweet or be so lauded.
Never again will Younis Khan stand on an English cricket ground and lead his team in a military salute.
In his 59th Test, Sri Lanka are in Karachi.
In a few short days, some terrorists will decide to shoot up the tourists’ bus. It will break Pakistan. It will break cricket.
The events of his 59th Test are easily forgotten given what history was about to throw at the world.
Sri Lanka bat first.
Jayawardene makes 240
Samaraweera makes 231
Younis gets a bowl.
1 - 0 - 6 - 0
Younis then gets a bat
He makes 313
Sachin never made a triple hundred. Neither did Ponting.
His Test batting average lifts above 50 for the first time. It will never fall below 50 again.
Younis Khan has 9 Test wickets to his name.
His strike rate is better than Pat Symcox.
He once had Sehwag stumped on the last ball of a Test match.
He once got Hashim Amla.
Younis Khan has only played 19 of his 115 Test matches in Pakistan.
Some statisticians like to claim that the UAE is a “neutral” venue and therefore shouldn’t be counted as an “away” match. Nothing in statistics has ever been more wrong.
He has played 96 Test matches outside of Pakistan. He will never play another one at home. Never in front of his own people. Never sleeping in his own bed.
When he did play in Pakistan, he averaged 59.31.
But only legends average 76.80 in India.
Younis Khan is a legend.
He has made a century in 11 different countries.
Younis has only ever been dismissed in the 90’s once.
He has 34 Test hundreds but only 32 Test fifties. Therefore, Younis doesn’t just get starts. He makes sure he finishes.
Only five players in the history of the game have more Test hundreds. All of those five got to play about half of their matches at home. A norm that doesn’t apply to Younis.
Younis is about to crack 10,000 Test runs. That’s a lot.
Younis Khan is the Chuck Norris of cricket.
“Give me your top six modern era batsmen.”
“Well, have you seen Younis Khan’s record?”
Dennis Freedman is a cricket writer and host of Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw Cricket Show heard on Australian radio and globally via iTunes.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 15th, 2017