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Playing under pressure

Playing under pressure

The Test series between Australia and Pakistan is over, and it was won by Younis Khan. Don’t believe me? Well, think about this: after the hugely impressive Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer, no one’s stature has made greater strides in the last two weeks. For a guy who was busy failing in two matches for Habib Bank, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Consider these facts:

1. After the heavy defeat in Melbourne, our board and selectors were requested by Mohammad Yousuf and the management in Australia to send Younis before Sydney. They did not, evidently on the basis of the fact that Misbahul Haq made 65 runs in the first innings and Faisal Iqbal made a lucky 48 in the second, so how could either of them be dropped for a guy that, you know, averages 50 in Test cricket? We’ll never know if Younis could have made a difference to that apocalyptic collapse on the fourth afternoon at Sydney, but we do know that both Misbah and Faisal are useless.

Faisal never looked like he would survive Mitchell Johnson’s spell, and Misbah’s combined record in the two second innings in the series thus far reads: 0 runs, 3 balls, 2 collapses abetted, and 170 million hearts broken. If either of these jokers had scratched 15 runs a piece, Umar Akmal could’ve carried us home. But they’re not good enough, and never were. It’s also instructive to note that the last two times Pakistan has chased successfully in a Test abroad featured Younis playing a major role: Kandy 2006 and Port Elizabeth 2007 (and yes, it really was that long ago). We sure could’ve used him in Sydney.

2. His replacement as captain put in such a shameful display on the fourth morning that it became immediately clear that we would lose. To be honest, I actually wasn’t that upset watching us throw our wickets away, because I basically expected it; the morning session told me everything I needed to know about our mental state. We wanted Australia to give in because we were too afraid of actually having to work to win the game.

There can be no other explanation for Yousuf putting everyone on the boundary against Michael Hussey, a guy who survived three chances the previous day and looked far from assured against Danish Kaneria. Seeing that field setting, I basically knew we’d collapse, because we’d try to do things too quickly – again, taking shortcuts and hoping for the best – rather than keep our heads. And sure enough, that’s what happened. I also know there’s no way on God’s green earth that Younis would have set those fields. No way.

Look, I know Younis has his problems. He’s a bit of a baby and he’s too thin-skinned. But while he tends to be emotionally unstable, his mental strength as a batsman is what sets him apart, especially in the second innings of Tests when teams are usually batting under pressure. Think about this: Younis has six second-innings hundreds (out of 16 overall) and his second-innings average is only three runs lower than his overall average. As a comparison, Yousuf only has four second-innings hundreds out of 24 overall, and his average drops off by eleven. Sachin Tendulkar has 11 second-innings hundreds out of 43 overall, and his average drops off by 12. Younis plays well when the pressure is really on – and we all know the pressure was on in Sydney.

I suppose it would be a little churlish of me to spend my entire word count on a guy who wasn’t even in the country when the game was being played. I also suppose congratulations are in order for Australia. But here’s the thing: they don’t need our congratulations. Our humiliation is enough for them to enjoy; they don’t need to hear “well played, guys, you did us again” to feel good about themselves. So I’m not going to say anything nice about them.

I will, however, say this: Sydney will impact the psyche of Pakistan’s cricket-following public like few other games I can remember. The two that come to mind are Bangalore 1996 and Hobart 1999, both of which had us in the ascendancy for long periods before we threw them both away by losing our heads. But in neither of those could we taste victory like we did here. It was so close you could almost touch it.

You won’t believe the number of emails, blog posts, Facebook updates, and forum comments I’ve read to the effect of “I’m not watching cricket again for a long, long time.” I don’t think it’s anger as much as hopelessness; we know that things will never change, that our selection committees and boards will always be steered by the bhai-bhai culture rather than on the basis of merit, that very few of our batsmen will ever learn to play the moving ball (and the few that do, like Younis and Fawad Alam, won’t play), that our fielding will always be atrocious with an average of three dropped catches per day, and that any success we do miraculously achieve – as we did under the Inzi/Woolmer/Shahrayar Khan reign –  will be transient.

I know for a fact that I won’t be watching the third Test on crummy streams on the internet, getting five and a half hours of sleep, just to experience that feeling again. Thanks, but no thanks.

Ahsan Butt is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Chicago, and he blogs at Five Rupees.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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157 Responses to “Playing under pressure”

  1. Shoaib says:


    the problem is that they are playing for money not for country. See Mr Umer Akmal what he was did when selector dropped his brother. They all are thinking for his future not for Pakistan future.

  2. Ajaz says:

    Younus is not in form. It happens with any cricketer. So is Yousuf too. Why don’t these so called great players rest and improve their batting at domestic levels?, instead of practicing their batting at the cost of Pakistan’s reputation in New Zealand, Sri Lanka and now Australia. Younus and Yousuf if you both have any regard for your country, then you should voluntarily step down or PCB should drop them out. As they have costed us the first One Day and will do the same in all other matches. It’s a shame.


    Very well summed up, but just one thing to add here. Younis Khan, no matter how valuable and capable the writer depicts him to be, must do a little introspection and come out clean on this: Is he really and truly patriotic? I don’t think so. Same goes for Shahid Afridi, sorry to write this way! However, it still is a mystery to me as it might be to a lot of other people as well as to what could be the ‘incentive’ to get either one to come out and play for the country as and when demanded of them? Wasn’t there a sense of urgency that emanated from the calls that were being made before the tour Down under? Didn’t there exist a spot or two for either or both of these stalwarts in our Test sides especially in view of the general lack of experience in the team’s middle order? We need to come down real hard on such selfish attitudes from our celebrated stars in order to prevent any further humiliations and broken hearts.

  4. samy says:

    Pak had a chance to finish Ponting as a player and batsman. Instead they had reacted to pressure in such a way that they have finished 5 of their careers (If the selectors act with Some sense)…

  5. Abid says:

    Pakistan team has one heck of players. They only need more play time together. Intekhab Alam is a fine manager, and doesn’t hesitate one bit in trying new names. Talented Sarfaraz is filling big shoes and he is only 17. It is only a matter of time. Look at Amer, Sami and Asif, they do not let us miss Pindi express.

    I have one advice, bowlers need to work like Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan, or Wasim Akram. They all turned great batsman. Pakistani fans need runs. We all need 11 batsman.

    We need to have faith. New talents

    This team

  6. yousuf says:

    I will not say that this is solely depended on one or two person. Test cricket is not a game played on streets. Coach, manager, captain and Vice captain should have planned, discuss the line of action.

    Suggesting that Yousuf is one to blame for the defensive field setting. Why not we should ask the coach. I was anticipating that some one from the management should discuss this with the captain unless they decided earlier.

    Batsman playing like they are playing one day game. Again did we discussed theses.

    I do remember Salman Butt in Sri Lanka throwing away his wicket and started the fall of wicket when Yousuf got out and we lost the game.

    I think, it is time to throw people out of game who does not have behave as professional. Remember, it is a team game and a hindered or 5 wickets in 10 games should not be enough to be picked in the team.

    I would suggest drop Salman, Farhat, faisal, Misbah, Malik out and bring some you from under 19 and give them chance to prove themself.

    I know, next these guys will play against Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, make hundred and will stay in the team for next two years unless we will play next time in Australia or England.

  7. Abid says:

    Kamran needs class. One would be ashamed of dropping 4 catches & missing stumps in a crucial Second Test, if only its importance cod be realized. Board should replace non performers, allow no room for shallow performers.

  8. Syed says:

    I think Pakistani team is now transformed into T20 team. All they have to do is to keep their energy level high for few hours and do all kind of stunts in T20 and they win the match. For test cricket you need a good captain which I don’t think Pakistan has.

  9. Anis Khan says:

    It was disappointing to see Pakistan lose from a winning position. After the first day, I had hoped that we will win by an innings. The truth, however, was far from reality.

    Younis and Yousuf both are match winners and great batsmen, but Yousuf lacks the flair of captaincy. However, Younis wants to prove his cunning point that he is the best captain at the moment and should be given unlimited powers, which is again wrong.

    Agreed, Younis has 6/16 centuries in the second innings, which is a higher percentage that that of Yousuf and Tendulkar, but Yousuf and Tendulkar’s centuries have resulted in more victories that Younis’s.

    I hope I can see the old Pakistan team during the time of Imran.

    Disappointed fan.

  10. Mohammed Abid says:

    Every body goes through bad days. Anyone who drops catches or do not score should be dropped. Yousuf, Abdul Razzak, Shoaib Malik, Umer, openers and Younis are good players and so is are Kaneria, Sami, Asif, Tanveer, Amer, Gul, and Shoaib.

    I see we need score and good bowling. I would drop, at least for 1 or 2 games, who is not a clutch player. 2nd game was crucial and the wicket keeper was tired. Let him rest. Seems like he doesn’t care about cricket fans feeling. I think Intekhab is very talented. He wants to win.

    I wish him success.

    Abid Chicago

  11. Chris says:

    That was very much expected!!!! Lets face the reality that Pakistani batsmen doesnt have right technique to face quality bowling like Austarlia that too in Australia. They never had quality batsmen in the past as well if we leave the few exception. There is lot of talk about Younis Khan but I do not think he could have made any difference as he also have very average record in difficult conditions.

  12. m siddique says:

    Younis is very smart and intelligent man,by keeping himself out of Australian tour he saved his skin. He knew that after getting defeat from Austalia his international cricket chapter will be closed.

  13. Syed Ali says:

    Please close the chapter of Younis Khan all we need is a talented person to command the team.

  14. Asfand jyar khan says:

    Yousuf is not a good captain but he is a good batsman in test cricket. We want Younis khan back as a captain.

  15. zain ahmed says:

    I think Pakistan cricket is coming to an end. We need a captain like Imran Khan. We need a captain who can groom our players and lead from the front.

  16. It was a disgraceful surrender in the second Test. It is obvious Yousuf is NOT captain material and I don’t think he has the backing of his players either. Pakistan has and always will be a team within a team, with no clear strategy to win games.

  17. Excellent article Mr Butt.

    I fully understand your disappointment as it hurts more away from home.
    Nevertheless, let us not forget that we still are the T20 world champions and only one team can match that – Australia, who are the One Day champions.

    Hopefully, this team will find its way by the time the test championship arrives.
    By the way, we did win the first test championship of any kind – when we beat Sri Lanka in the final of Asian Test Championship.

    The real test of a player or team is their performance in an olympics/world cup/grand slam. The rankings can always be acquired by playing more matches/tournaments. The case of Safina in Tennis is a prime example – no one in their right mind will consider her better than Serena or Venus Williams!

  18. akbar orakzai says:

    Asalamoalaikum to all Friends

    I think we should blame Muhammad Yousaf Because ask him to send Younas Khan but Selection committee didn’t want him,

    If you trust in a leader’s leadership, let him decide and support him.

    I like this article very much.

    See you all
    Allah Hafiz

  19. Ali says:

    Pakistan cricket board is a senseless. They should have never let Younas to leave the team. If he had a bad form then why bother with Salman Butt, Faisal Iqbal and Misbah. Yousaf was a disgrace as a captain. If we went to restore some pride then Younas has to lead from the front.

  20. naveed says:

    It was such a disappointing game. Don’t the cricketers realise that people all over the world were watching!! We had to stay awake especially for them and for them to throw away the game is pathetic. I can’t understand why the whole team, including management could not get the basics right. So sad. Sometimes wonder where Yousef got his batting average from

  21. Riaz Khan says:

    Younis has scored 6 centuries in 2nd Innings however hardly won any of those matches. Those are personal land marks. However Yousuf has won many matches for Pakistan and no comparisons with Sachin.

  22. Nikhil says:

    I was dissapointed with the result. It was heartening to see Pak dominate Ricky Ponting’s team for the most part of the test match. That there is talent in the team is undeniable with the classic pace bowling of Asif and Aamer and even Gul and Sami. Pak hasnt played test cricket for long and has been facing all sorts of problems. They did well despite that. One day they will have enough experience to go with their amazing talent. Maybe Shahid Afridi to captain in all formats is not a bad idea wherein he can play primarily as a bowling all rounder. All the best PAK, the future looks good for your team.

  23. Faisal Zaheer says:

    Please bring Younis back in the team, without him the team is incomplete.

    And Younis it is humbly requested to you from all Pakistani cricket fans to accept the captain ship and remove the lobbies.

    I am sure you can do it.

  24. Dawar says:

    Very good article.

    Its true Younis Khan is better batsman that Mohamamd Yousuf and Tendulkar in pressure. He is honest and best candidate for Captain. Yousuf can not raise voice on wrong doing of senior player. Akmal dropped 4 catches and one stump in one inning (World record by any wicket keeper on that level) and current captain still think he should play in the next match. Board should bring back Younis Khan as a Captain with the powers and authoring. He needs power to break the player mafia who support each other. Malik was dropped from the team due to his bad performance in New Zealand, he sat in the dressing room in Australia and now coming back in third test with out any score with that bat. What are the criteria to bring him back? One thing can only be correct, he was dropped before or he will play third test? Both can not be correct. Player mafia should finish, I wish Yonuis Khan will break this pressure lobby.

    Dawar, USA

  25. asif says:

    I think there is place of Faisal Iqbal in the team, Fawad Alam should stay here in Pak. and make Yousuf change his body language, I think he don’t know that he is now captain.

    One thing more try Afridi.

  26. Tony Wajpai says:

    There is no doubt that Pakistan team need a leader right now!

    Team is loosing on a routinely basis rather than performing at the international level.

    Sorry affairs when the team can not win against a weak Australian and Kiwis team.

    Team needs a proven winner who has performed top class at the international level.

    Let’s hope BCCP gets some sanity in their head and responds to the people’s choice by sending Younis down under – even though the damage in this series is already done with a 2-0 result.

  27. matt says:

    You made us to think a lot about Younis khan, let me ask you one question. If he did not want to play in first instance why care about him?

  28. AZFAR says:

    Some will say it is a sports and win/loss is part and parcel. True! So having said that
    why is this persistent with Pak cricket that we tend to lose more than win. We fetch defeat after defeat from the jaws of victory! The team is getting spineless and needs a person or two to help make it stronger. Yes it is a person or two who will rebuild or be a role model. Truly you have only Yousuf and Younis who can stand up to it and now to some extent but immature Umar Akmal. Younis may not perform in domestic but his track record and mental ability to score runs in 2nd innings can be beneficial. We do need a strong middle order and need it very soon. Kamran Akmal can be played at No. 4 as a batsman only and lets see what can we do!

  29. Ratnesh Jachak,Dhamtari,INDIA says:

    Well, all the difference is the captaincy. After Imran Khan you needless punish Wasim Akram who was the greatest one. Just see Indian team where not a bowler worth of Md. Asif or Umar Gul but the team spirit hoisted by Dhoni & supported by players like Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvraj make the Indian team No.1. Please Change your captain & I think Kamran Akmal would be as good as Dhoni.

  30. syed akhtar ahmad says:

    Y. khan is a great player without him Pakistan team is just like ordinary team except Umar Akmal and Aamir.

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