KARACHI: Pakistan’s newly appointed batting coach Younis Khan, though refusing to make long-term commitment about his future with Pakistan cricket, on Wednesday pledged to make solid contributions to the national side for its tour of England in July.
Addressing a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) video media conference, Younis termed the challenges of playing cricket during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic as the biggest mental test for the individuals involved across the globe.
Younis revealed he was approached by the PCB chief executive Wasim Khan on June 2 with the offer to join the Pakistan team as the batting consultant for the tour of England.
“Obviously I didn’t straightaway say yes because of my involvement in charity work to raise funds for the underprivileged, something which I have been doing extensively in the last couple of years after the end of my career as player. The [charity] work involved lot of overseas travelling and hardly left room to do anything else, let alone take up coaching as a fulltime profession.
‘In the changed environment, England tour will be a huge challenge’
“Anyways, since the offer was respectfully and professionally made by the PCB chief executive, I assessed it for a week and decided to make myself available for the [England] tour with an open mind. People may have different views about Younis Khan but I never pay much attention. My philosophy is clear because I’m a straightforward person and always deal with things with an open mind. For me it has got to be stated in black and white. I must know what perimeters are,” said Younis.
“This was exactly the case when I accepted the Pakistan captaincy during [ex-PCB chairman] Ijaz Butt’s tenure. I concealed nothing from anyone and made it simple and plain for the chairman. I told him to appoint me as captain until the 2011 World Cup and told him that if in between anything makes me uncomfortable, I’ll quit then and there. And that’s what I did in 2009.”
Younis downplayed the talk of his ‘mood swings’ doing the rounds, saying that he’s a changed man from before.
“My aim is to move forward regardless of what has happened in the past during my playing career. [Head coach-cum-chief selector] Misbah-ul-Haq and I have seen it all before while playing together for many years and I have great regard for him. In a way we are reuniting and understand each other so well,” Younis emphasized. “Being away for two years [from the cricketing limelight] after the international retirement has allowed me the opportunity to sample what life actually is! Now you’ll see a different Younis Khan because I’ve learnt to be more humble [person] than before.
“Moreover, I also believe this is the time to pay back to the country. I always wanted to serve Pakistan and would have done so earlier at the junior level but due to some issues between the board and myself, that deal sadly never materialized.
“However, the fame and love I got during my long career as a player is something I can never ever forget and that is the reason of my joining the team for the England tour. The experience I gained during all those 20 years compelled me to share the same with Pakistan cricket by joining Misbah, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed on the support staff. The bonding with them will be certainly something I’ll be cherishing because I have shared the [Pakistan] dressing-rooms with them and also played under Waqar’s captaincy. Together, we would be working on the same page and the main beneficiary of this ‘reunion’ will obviously be the players.”
Younis said it would be extremely tough for all concerned to operate in the present environment under the SOPs (standard operating procedures) brought in to combat the menace of Covid-19.
“Obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the perception of our living, not only here but worldwide. Like other major sports, cricket too has to be planned differently with all mandatory SOPs as guidelines. There will be lot of shortcomings and the challenges for the players to overcome because we never thought of having to go through what the entire world is experiencing for the past several months now.
“Of course, when one has to adapt to a totally different environment, it is a challenge, like we’ll face in England where the matches will be played in bio-secure scenario. The teams will be permitted to make substitutions as per ICC announcement but the bowlers won’t be allowed to use saliva on the ball as some of the measures in the wake of Covid-19,” he added.
Younis further said the players and the support staff will need time to make adjustments but stressed that getting used to the situation would make everyone determined in their endeavour to come on the top.
“The coming weeks will be a tough experience for the stakeholders. It would be in our best interest to get engaged to whatever boundaries are put in place. I know it won’t be very easy because until now the players had been used to playing in a complete safe haven. Now it’s not just about the game but the surrounding hazards.
“It would a big, big test for the support staff to keep the players fit and motivated. Personally I’m taking it as a big challenge to keep everyone involved through my experiences both as a former player and as the batting coach, and overall, as a person. I’m sure we will have enough time on our side to prepare and prepare well for what should be an intriguing series between two good sides,” said the former skipper.
“Playing England in England has always been tough, not only for Pakistan but for any side because of the sudden changes in the weather there. I’ll be leaving no stone unturned and Insha’Allah hope to share good news with you on a regular basis during the England series.”
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2020