Monday, 19 July 2010

Why the PCB should welcome Yousuf back

I see that Pakistan's prolific batsman Mohammad Yousuf has stated his desire to revoke his self imposed exile from the National team, claiming that he is willing to play under any captain. In my view the PCB would be mad (no comment) not to bite his hand off (left hand preferrable for everyone's sake) and stick him back in the side at number 4. There are a number of reasons why this would be a very good move. Firstly, and above all, Yousuf is Pakistan's best batsman. Younis was fantastic, and in my view should be back in the side at 3, but Yousuf brought that uncomplicated, structured, efficient elegance that complimented the instinctive hitting of some of the other players so well. You always felt that Pakistan could build a huge score if Yousuf had his eye in. Yes his running is risque and to be honest it could be said that at times he did not adapt his game well enough to cope with the situation. However the Pakistan team has changed since he left and they need his solidity and knowledge in a top order that looks mightily talented but so so flaky. I believe that Yousuf still has a 1000 run year in him, though of course the unbelievable showings of 2006 would be difficult to match! Pakistan have been struggling terribly to put together a decent score, especially in the first innings and Yousuf can be the pillar that supports the innings.

Secondly, I think Yousuf should be brought back into the team for his experience. The man has played more test matches than anyone else in the side and has played around the world numerous times in all sorts of situations. The likes of Umar Akmal have a huge future but they are being given too much responsibility too early, as shown by the first test against Australia where Akmal batted at 5, coming in after two debutants. To develop his game Akmal needs to be batting with the likes of Yousuf and Younis on a regular basis, getting advice both in the nets and whilst at the crease. His advice would also be beneficial for the new captain, Salman Butt. Though I would have preferred to see Butt focus on his own game, the lack of anyone remotely capable of leading a side means that he was the only pick as captain that would have been remotely sane. As it is Butt will need all of the guidance he can get, currently placed in charge of a team with no international captaining experience at all. Yousuf has that experience though some would doubt the wisdom of bringing him back after the much publicised problems he had whilst captain and whilst playing under Malik and Younis. I feel these rumoured problems were blown out of proportion though, or at least misrepresented. Malik in my view is not fit to be anywhere near the team, let alone be captain. I've also never believed there was a rift between Younis and Yousuf, as both appear experienced veterans who have known each other too long to start plotting against each other. Unless of course they scrapped for power like two generals after a King (Inzy) has gone. I can't see any plotting occurring against Butt - the likes of Farhat, Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul and Danish Kaneria have come through the early stages of their test careers alongside Butt - a man of the people, if you will, and I suspect he holds a great deal of respect amongst the other players. Bringing in Yousuf would provide more of a safety net than an opposition for Butt, again thanks to the experience, and also Yousuf's knowledge on handling other players. It works in India with Dhoni leading the test side to number one in the world with Dravid and Tendulkar as his two learned, dogged lieutenants.

In Salman Butt Pakistan have a reluctant but long term successful leader. However both he and the test side need the experience and runs of Mohammad Yousuf if they are to move forward from this horror 12 months or so. 

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