KARACHI: The numbers — 30 Test centuries in 102 matches, average of 53.97 per innings — are astronomical. The batting feats — one triple century, five double centuries, greatest fourth innings record, the only Pakistani to score centuries against all nine Test opponents — are monumental. Javed Miandad’s fans might squirm, but statistically Younis Khan is indeed the country’s greatest-ever batsman.
On Tuesday, after a typically jittery start, Younis took a liking to Moeen Ali’s friendly off-spinners. A magnificent cover drive, a punchy straight drive and a few typical dabs around the corner brought him within a stroke of the elusive 8,833-run mark.
With four runs separating him and Javed Miandad, Younis lofted Moeen into the stands with consummate ease, 22 years after Miandad’s last Test — the record for the highest Pakistan run-getter in the longest format had fallen.
Detractors might continue to question his pedigree and spot among the greats, but from here on every single run would further widen the gap between him and Miandad, Inzamamul Haq and company.
Fifteen years ago the Mardan warrior began his Test cricket journey with an innings that was going to set the tone for the years ahead. Pakistan were dead and buried and staring at a heavy defeat when he teamed up with Wasim Akram for a 145-run ninth wicket stand.
Younis exemplified the resilience of the men from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa mountains, men who master the art of survival from almost the time they leave their mother’s womb. Younis scored 107; Pakistan narrowly lost the game, but from the outset the single-mindedness and determination of the new batting sensation was for all to see.
The rollercoaster ride, so typical of a Pakistan cricketer, was an encumbrance for Younis too. The selectorial shenanigans, the officialdom of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and at times his own mood swings contributed to Younis courting controversy frequently despite his extremely humble and down-to-earth demeanour. The hunger for runs, though, never diminished, and, as former left-arm spinner and chief selector Iqbal Qasim recently noticed, Younis just kept accumulating century after century as the cricket fraternity was busy revering the Laras, Tendulkars and Pontings of this world.
Before we knew it, there was a 267 at Bangalore, serene tons in England, a match-winning century in the West Indies, a brace of 190s against India at home and a triple-century at Karachi’s National Stadium.
Test captaincy was not exactly Younis’s cup of tea, and the demanding nature of the hard taskmaster forced a coup by the ‘senior lot’ under his wings.
After fallout with the then PCB chairman, Ijaz Butt, Younis roared back in the first ‘home series’ in the UAE after the 2009 Lahore attack on the Sri Lankan team.
Amid the spot-fixing carnage, Younis emerged as the beacon of hope for a beleaguered bunch led by Misbahul Haq. South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe all bore the brunt of his blazing blade.
Australians were in a way the final frontier; on the eve of the two match series in the UAE last year Younis had another showdown with the selectors.
But once the series began, the Aussies were stung; they must have repeatedly cursed the Moin Khan-led selection committee for waking up the lion from his slumber, as Younis struck 106, 103 not-out and 213 in three consecutive innings.
His greatest knock, at least since the 2010 return, is the Pallekele 171 not-out that enabled a 377-run chase on the fourth and fifth day – the sixth highest Test chase of all time.
Younis now has in his sights the 10,000-run mark, on the eve of his departure for the England series; Younis reiterated his desire of reaching the yet unchartered territory for his countrymen. “I want to become the first Pakistani to score 10,000 Test runs; I want to score 40 Test hundreds. Pakistan must have a batsman in the top ten run-getters list.” Younis, we can’t agree more; we wish you the very best!
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2015.