Hard journey
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Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |

Pakistan has produced cricketers who have made an indelible impact on Test Cricket since it got its status way back in 1952. Stardom was a constant feature even in the early years with Fazal Mehmood, who not only set the world alight with his cricketing prowess but also his charming looks. Many Pakistani players who have adorned the annals of test history are deemed as all-time greats of the game. Brilliance, prodigious talent and impulsiveness were the hallmarks of the Pakistani legends.

The first test in Rawalpindi was Khan’s first and much to his credit he scored a century in that very match; a feat achieved by only 6 Pakistanis before him.

Despite producing the likes of Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas and Inzamam–Ul-Haq, Pakistan was considered a factory of churning out bowlers of the highest pedigree. The likes of Imran, Wasim and Waqar gave new bite to the art of bowling over the years. Scoring runs at test match is most prized; certainly scoring 10,000 of them is highly coveted. All major test playing nations had batsmen who had crossed the barrier except Pakistan. But it all changed yesterday when the Mardan-born Younis Khan knocked off the remaining 23 runs at the Sabina Park in Jamaica. He became the first Pakistani to score 10,000 runs in a test match.

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Scoring runs at test match is most prized; certainly scoring 10,000 of them is highly coveted.

Khan rightfully deserves all the accolades; he has entered an elite list of cricketers in the test arena. If statistics were the only measure, then the 39-year old could have been considered the very best in the business. Let us try to understand what made the taciturn and the unassuming boy into what he is today.

A Journey of Grit and Commitment

It was the year 2000 when Sri Lankan team visited Pakistan for a full tour and defeated the hosts’ hands down. Pakistan inducted some fresh faces including Younis Khan. The first test in Rawalpindi was Khan’s first and much to his credit he scored a century in that very match; a feat achieved by only 6 Pakistanis before him. His next turn was against the same opposition but in their own backyard.

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A closer analysis of his batting style suggested that he neither was pleasing to the eye nor was he an expansive stroke-maker. In other words, his batting lacked elegance and the power game. His defensive technique wasn’t uptight either. He was neither Mark Waugh nor Sunil Gavaskar, but he was just the gritty Khan that we know.  He struggled against seam, swing, and pace; he was uncomfortable with anything that was short of length but still he grinded his way.

After a match-losing 147 runs in Kolkata, he rose to the occasion in the must-win game at Bangalore. His 267 and 84* (not out) on a difficult wicket helped Pakistan level the series.

His lack of flair and outrageous abilities did not deter him from making a mark for himself. He started to play a significant role in Pakistan’s victories. His 149 score, in seemingly difficult conditions in Auckland, showed that he had the stomach to overcome demons and grind his way through. Performances in his early days were sporadic and not prolific. However, things changed when he toured India way back in 2005.

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After a match-losing 147 runs in Kolkata, he rose to the occasion in the must-win game at Bangalore. His 267 and 84* (not out) on a difficult wicket helped Pakistan level the series. The innings perched him in good stead. As they say “he never looked back.” He scored heaps of runs everywhere, be it in the West Indies, England or at home. Much to his credit, he scored, despite the inherent flaws in his batting. Indeed, he thrived on flat decks and against relatively weak bowling attacks. But among his contemporaries especially from Pakistan, he was head and shoulders above. He scored a triple ton; he has more centuries than half-tons and he captained Pakistan to a World T20 victory. However, even these exploits did not make him rise on the popularity index. Many a time he was on the wrong side of the board; he was sacked; he was banned, yet he emerged out of the ashes to carry on his merry way.

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His limited overs record was decent but he often received flak for his outdated mode of batting. In the test format, he carried the burden of our feeble batting for a good part of 17 years. As he will hang his boots at the end of this tour, Pakistan would feel his absence; his replacement will be difficult. He certainly is not an all-time great; there are doubts about him being Pakistan’s best batting product but he indeed left a mark in world cricket. His legacy lies in his ability to defy all odds and attain greatness through sheer perseverance dedication and a never-say-die attitude.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Associate at the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR), Islamabad. He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs of South Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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