His back arches, head still as an arrow as his knee kisses the ground, his entire 5’9 figure kneels down on one knee as he elegantly leans forward to fittingly sweep the struggling Nathan Lyon’s tossed up delivery. The bat makes a cracking sound, the connection couldn’t have been much sweeter. The ball races to the boundary. The stadium lights up, the players in the balcony stand up. The Australians applaud in utter awe and respect of the great man. The crowd witnesses history being made right in front of their eyes. Another sweep shot. Another boundary. Another ton. Another record. Broken. Younis Khan, Pakistan’s very own smiling assassin, becomes the first player in the history of test match cricket to score a hundred in all of 11 nations that have ever hosted Tests.
Having said all that, there was something odd about the maestro’s thirty fourth ton. Younis didn’t look like Younis. He didn’t feel like the Younis us Pakistanis are used to seeing. He didn’t look at ease. Certainly not as comfortable as he used to look back in the day. It wasn't in his movements at the crease when he first arrived - now, more than ever before he is extremely vulnerable in that first half hour at the crease. But he wasn’t the England waala Younis either. No dances, just occasional hopping. He looked doubtful. He looked confused and for the first time ever it seemed as if he had lost the plot. But he stayed. He continued. He fought. He negotiated, playing each ball according to its merit, ducking, leaving, trying to connect. He missed a few easy deliveries down leg side and some looseners outside off, balls that would have been hammered by the Younis we all know.
That didn’t disturb him much though for he found solace in spin. When young Steve Smith finally introduced Nathan Lyon into the attack, Younis started to feel at home. For once he would not hesitate in extending his knee and dispatching the ball outside off in the most Younis Khan fashion possible. Glimpses of the old Younis were finally appearing. Another drive led to another boundary and suddenly there was a sense of security between Azhar Ali and Younis Khan; one of Pakistan’s trusted batting pairs. Younis brought up his fifty with the most elegant drive, perhaps the shot of Day 2. A slight raise of the bat followed by a halfhearted hug by Azhar Ali and back to business as usual.
The first 50 runs at the Sydney Cricket Ground highlighted Younis Khan’s entire career. From self-doubt to sudden comfort to confusion and to domination all in a matter of 98 deliveries. The thing to be noted here is that like all great players that have played the game, Younis Khan remained Younis Khan. He refused to hit the Panic Button and self-destruct. Perhaps that is exactly what makes him stand out. He is indeed one of the most Un-Pakistani Pakistani batsman Pakistan may have ever produced.
After having achieved what seemed almost impossible, Younis Khan is staring at yet another milestone; something that he describes as his “Lifelong dream”, a dream of becoming Pakistan’s only batsman to cross the 10,000 run mark in Test cricket; a mammoth record that speaks for itself. Unfortunately, the veteran could not finish the Australian series off on another personal high falling just twenty three runs short of the feat.
Whether it’s all over or the cricket board might give Khan another go remains to be seen but like all great things, this romantic journey of struggle, tears, criticism and pure domination must come to an end and if it’s all over, Thank You Younis Khan, Pakistan’s very own son.
© Cricket World 2017