37-year-old deliberates celebration to mark becoming Pakistan’s top run-getter in Tests
KARACHI: In a quiet corner of the executive room of Regent Plaza, Pakistan Test batsman Younus Khan is deep in concentration.
Younus is used to face the best in cricket with a look not too dissimilar to this, but here the challenge is altogether more light-hearted; how to celebrate the imminent milestone that awaits the legend.
Surrounded by a select few journalists, those who have followed the path of the Mardan-born’s phenomenal Test career right from that debut in 2000 in Rawalpindi to the brink of history, Younus is figuring out what would be the perfect gesture to mark arguably the greatest moment of his cricket sojourn — overtaking Javed Miandad as the highest run-getter in Pakistan’s Test history.
The 37-year-old has his eyes firmly on the magic number: 8,833 — one more than Miandad’s tally of 8,832 runs in 124 Tests.
Half-an-hour before this, Younus had handed out specially-designed mugs to commemorate his forthcoming achievement. The grey mugs — produced by Younus’s promoters Makab marketing — have 8,833 inscribed on them along with his signature.
The right-handed batsman hopes he is afforded some leeway to celebrate the 19th run, which will take him above Miandad. “I’ll request the umpires to give me a minute to celebrate,” reveals Younus with his usual smile and glint in his eyes. “What do you guys think of this: I’ll raise my bat, absorb the atmosphere and then run to the boundary and hand my gloves to a kid in the crowd?”
The journalists give their suggestions. “How about if you carry a note in your pocket that can be flashed to the TV cameras? Something similar to Denesh Ramdin’s ‘Yea Viv talk nah’, but more like a tribute to the martyrs of the war against terror?” asks one of them. Another wants him to wrap himself with the Pakistan flag.
Veteran Qamar Ahmed, who has covered a remarkable 415 Tests, brushes aside the advice of his comparatively less travelled colleagues in his usual stern tone. “Those are possibly the most foolish things you can do,” he says. “Don’t forget there will be a strong English media presence there. Don’t send the wrong message. Handing over your gloves is the best thing possible.”
Younus doesn’t usually argue with Qamar. “You have a valid point; I will follow your advice,” he assures the well-respected journalist. “Just pray that I score these 19 runs in the very first innings, I don’t want to wait too long.”
Younus appears excited, perhaps even restless; a mere 19 runs separate him from the record books. His numbers are comparable with the very best of his era — 8,814 runs at an average of 54.07, 30 centuries and some astounding feats in the second innings.
But seldom does he get the plaudits he deserves; such superlative praise is usually reserved for the more charismatic and more marketable of players.
PHOTO: AYESHA SALEEM/ EXPRESS
Younus though doesn’t care. He calls himself the turtle who has slowly but steadily stumbled ahead of the rabbits in the race.
“My real worry is that there are no Pakistan batsmen with even 9,000 runs; I want to be the first one to break that and then the 10,000 barrier as well,” he said, but his ambition doesn’t come in the way of his humble nature. “I don’t want to go around proclaiming I am the best — if I compare myself with Hanif Mohammad, I am nowhere him.”
The ailing octogenarian Hanif — the first member of the country’s Test triple centurion club that also includes Younus— met him earlier in the day, and gave him an affectionate send off for the England Tests.
Younus also recalled his interaction with stars of India’s film industry in the 2005 tour when he scored his then Test highest; a match-winning 267 at Bangalore. “We had a one night stopover in Mumbai, and actor Arbaz Khan [brother of actor Salman Khan] took me to his house,” said Younus. “His entire family, including father Salim Khan, praised the Pakistan players. He told me that it was good to see us succeed since, unlike the Indian players who were always worried about ads and sponsorships, the Pakistan lot performed wonderfully despite their low key demeanour.”
Soon after, the seasoned campaigner bid farewell by embracing the journalists and his promoters; an early morning flight to Dubai was on his mind as he left the room with the promise that the celebrations would not halt even after he returns from the series.
Unfortunately not many turn up for Tests in the UAE, so if Younus fails to reach the mark in Abu Dhabi, he might not have many kids to give his gloves to in Dubai— the venue for the second Test — either.
There is no telling whether Younus will follow Qamar’s advice or that of the impassioned ‘younger journalists’, but few will begrudge him a few moments of indulgence to mark the crowning achievement of what has been an incredible career so far.