I’d like to tell you a story about a man named Younis Khan, a cricketer who only wanted to do good by his country.
A man of humble beginnings, he harboured a dream to one day represent his country at the highest level and set about making that a reality.
Initially recognition was not forthcoming and toil was his lone companion. But Younis persevered with a smile that was to become his trademark. Soon after one of his greatest personal achievments it became apparent that he was destined for greatness and he was placed firmly on the path to leadership.
The path was an ardous one, obstructed as it was with defeat, death and despair. He encountered monetary enticements to deviate but soldiered on for the greater cause and eventually assumed the mantle of leadership because the country needed him to. The assignment proved treacherous and engulfed him in a poisonous world of deceit, mistrust and malice. At times he wavered because his impermeable pride refused to reconcile itself with the depraved elements which surrounded him. Yet he held strong for his country and delivered to it one of its most historic victories.
And he did all this without breaking his smile.
In the rapture that followed the triumph, when the rewards for his labour were there for the taking, he elected to step back to permit the next generation to take centre stage while he restricted his purview to the decidedly less glamorous leadership of the test squad.
There was more at work than simply magnanimity in that gesture. By now, cracks had started to appear in his smile. The sheer weight of balancing his country’s expectations with the discord and resentment that afflicted his charges had began to take its toll. Being a good man wasn’t enough anymore. In fact, it was a liability in his team. His resolve shuddered. But he forged ahead, because that’s what his country expected him to do. That’s all he ever wanted to do.
However, the end was imminent. The seed of corruption that had been planted who knows how far back among his peers had long since taken root and, try as he might, he was helpless to stymie its progress.
He was, in effect, alone. His charges loathed him for his unwillingness to compromise with their infected mentalities. His superior detested him for his refusal to tow the company line. Even the country began to doubt him, castigating him for his emotionally high-strung reactions whenever faced with accusations regarding his ethics.
How easy would it have been to come out with the truth? How liberating would it have been to absolve himself of all guilt by shedding light on the actual conspirators.
Yet he declined the temptation, choosing instead to preserve the stature of the team rather than grind his personal axe. He resisted the urge to condemn the same men who had taken an unholy oath to undermine his leadership. To the end he remained a man of principle.
The end came unceremoniously. Unable to placate a bickering squad, he chose to walk away rather than allow his principles to be bent by the whims of certain players. He murmured the names of the instigators who had precipitated his downfall, but no mention of the depth of their malfeasance.
Some celebrated his departure. Others ridiculed it. His chairman demanded an apology but none would ever be forthcoming from Younis’s lips for a man who did not deserve a shred of his respect. He knew he was risking banishment but remained undeterred. He came from nothingness and would gladly disappear back into it if it meant that the day people relate the story of his life, it can be termed an honorable one.
And what was his reward for years of exemplary service? His superiors boycotted him indefinitely from the game he gave his life to.
After being disrespected so profoundly, one could excuse Younis if he chose to renounce the game. However, this was still the man who simply wanted to do good by his country and he voiced his availability for the national colours. He believed that one day he would be proven right. A time would come when the iniquities of others would come to light and he would finally stand vindicated.
That day was August 28, 2010. And perhaps every day since then. In one of the gravest embarrassments to ever befall the sport, the senior members of Younis’s squad were exposed to be the perfidious elements he had hinted at and more. A young man’s career was dragged through the dirt. An insider claimed that the scandal extended far wider than the current suspects. There was clamour and outrage as the events unfolded and the scale of the deception was questioned. Suddenly, the true nature of that oath taken so long ago became apparent. In uniting to act against Younis, his enemies had unwittingly affirmed his fidelity.
And what of his chairman? The world finally saw him for the crazed loon Younis always knew him to be. Casting brazen insinuations, the chairman was a man clearly out of his depth as an administrator and out of his mind as a human being.
Once again, Younis’s country needed him. The system was in turmoil and it needed its most honorable son to raise it out of the mire.
Now this is the point in the story where you might expect Younis to come riding in like the proverbial knight in shining armour to rescue his team. The hero returning to claim his rightful place on the throne. He stands morally exonerated. His enemies have been humiliated.
So isn’t this where we get the happy ending?
Because this is Pakistan cricket and we don’t really do happy endings.
Instead of the ascension of the rightful king, Misbah-ul-Haq crashes the story and usurps the throne. Misbah, the same man who couldn’t find a place in the squad ahead of rookies such as Azhar Ali and Umar Amin. The same man who was a mainstay of the diseased system which drove Younis away.
This was Younis’s moment. This was the time when the powers-that-be were supposed to admit their mistakes and give Younis free reign to re-tool and reinvigorate a team in consonance with his principles and code of ethics.
It was not to be and, until it is, Younis’s long story will remain a tragedy.
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