LAHORE: Pakistan batting coach Younis Khan has pinned high hopes on the national team’s largely inexperienced batting to notch up 400-plus totals during next month’s three-match series against hosts England.
Speaking to reporters in a PCB online media conference on Tuesday, Younis — the former Pakistan captain and country’s highest run-getter in Test cricket — the Azhar Ali-led side is capable of competing with Joe Root’s men when the first Test starts at Old Trafford in Manchester from Aug 5.
Hired specifically for the forthcoming series, Younis said: “Insha’Allah our team will put up strong show in the batting department to post big totals despite the fact Pakistan have a rather inexperienced line-up. But Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shan Masood, who have all played previously in England are capable of big scores.
“I remember sharing a big partnership with Asad with both of us scoring hundreds [during the Oval Test in 2016]. I expect more partnerships from the Pakistan batsmen on this tour.”
Younis further said that he is focussing on the batsmen converting centuries into substantial contributions. “I want to see Asad get big scores like a Younis Khan and Azhar as Misbah-ul-Haq. Once they reach 100, they must not think that job is done. I want them convert 100 into 150 and so forth.”
Younis revealed that he’s closely monitoring the problems Asad had been facing for a long time with his lack of big scores. “He has made 12 Test centuries but hasn’t progressed beyond 137. Being one of the senior payers, Asad somehow struggles to concentrate after crossing three figures and I want him to rectify that shortcoming.”
The batting legend emphasised Babar Azam has the potential to be the next Javed Miandad or Inzamam-ul-Haq. “Given his form in the last couple of years across all formats, I make sure not to put Babar under unnecessary pressure but the high expectations mean he’s has to absorb the pressure. I think he has realised the immense value he brings to the side. It’s natural when a player like Babar doesn’t score, the team struggles. The onus, therefore, is on others to score heavily, including the lower-order batsmen.”
Younis pinpointed that he avoids drawing comparison because that can easily ruin the growth of any player and cited the example of Sohail Tanvir, who was once dubbed as the next Wasim Akram.
Commenting on England’s series-winning performance against the West Indies, Younis said it would be great if Pakistan play with positive intent, while adding Pakistan have a superior top-order batting than the West Indies.
“Honestly our thinking is clear: we are not here to fight but to win and our preparations is based on that philosophy despite the fact we were just playing intra-squad matches because the Covid-19 pandemic put an end to schedule fixtures against the counties.
“At the same time I’m not worried about the batsmen’s modest performances in those intra-games, but once they play serious cricket against England it will be a different ball game.”
Younis, however, admitted that the Covid-19 situation has led the backroom staff to pay special attention to bring improvement in the players’ mental health and general attitude rather than working the technical issues.
“Look, the players may not achieve the desired results overnight and if Azhar, Asad, Abid Ali or Babar do not get big runs against England, it won’t be the end of world for any of them. I just want them to get use to the habit of scoring centuries, if not against England but in the future series.
“Because as a coach you have to deal with different players and you have to adapt differently to deal with each player separately, just I learnt from our former coach Bob Woolmer who always handled Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf and me in different ways compared to characters such as Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal,” he concluded.
Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2020