The former captain deserved a better send-off as he has served Pakistan well through his career
After his years’ long grievance with the national selectors centering around now-you-select-me-now-you-don’t, Younis Khan had finally managed to get his own way this time in the UAE as Haroon Rashid apparently flew over to convince the team management to induct him for the ODI series. It must have taken a lot of convincing as Waqar Younis especially has not been much impressed with Younis’ style of play in limited-overs formats. And the figures back him up.
It seemed that Younis would be going all the way through the series to prove a point. So his announcement before the start of the very first game that this would be his last was completely out of space, let alone out of the blue.
The facts will come out eventually as will the unofficial accounts of what really happened between the days leading up to the announcement of the squad for the Abu Dhabi match. I have a feeling that it was an agreement between a very closed group which is likely to have included Waqar, Haroon Rashid, Younis himself and maybe even Shaharyar Khan. I say that because if someone like fellow selector Saleem Jaffer was heard saying that Younis should play at least four matches this series, then he wasn’t in on it.
Younis always wanted a graceful exit from the ODIs. He wanted to be seen to go on his own terms. The team management felt the game and their one day strategy was bigger than the player, any player, and probably asked the selectors who they would drop from this side to play Younis. Rizwan? Ahmed Shahzad? Certainly Younis was not better than them in ODIs though Ahmed Shahzad has not been in sublime touch over the past year.
Not selecting him would obviously have the fear of another outburst by Younis on the great injustice that had befallen him.
And there would have been the media who even if they felt the figures were against Younis would still have shouted hoarse for the media bytes.
So maybe Younis was taken aside and told that he could indeed seen to be going on his own terms if he could in reality go on PCB’s terms. The arrangement may have been that he will go out of the limited-overs game after this series. But if Younis were to score impressively in this series that would mean keeping one of Babar Azam and Rizwan out of the series or used alternatively. That would be a real crime considering how both of them have batted this year in this format and the T20Is.
Younis after all is a decent person and has never stood in the way of anyone. Admittedly he was actually doing that all of the last two years whenever he was given a place in the final XI but I think it was more because there were no outstanding replacements. After all, he could claim, he was scoring at a strike rate that was equal to or higher than Hafeez, Misbah and Asad Shafiq.
Over the last six months, however, he had seen that with the emergence of Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Babar Azam plus the continuance of the never ending potential of Umar Akmal there really are players who score more runs than him and at a far faster rate. If he was going to demand a place in the first XI he would keep out match winners.
So the plan could have been that Pakistan would sacrifice a deserving player from either Rizwan or Babar and play him instead as long as he would make way for them in the second ODI irrespective of what he did in the first game.
That would allow him to go gracefully, on his own terms and be seen as a generous gesture to make way for youngsters.
Otherwise Younis may have been told that if he didn’t score he would be dropped and that would be the end of his ODI career, so it would be better to announce it beforehand.
Getting a duck and then announcing retirement would be an embarrassment for him. But falling cheaply in his last ODI would be forgivable.
He may have been told: "You’re looking to play all the games. Well, there’s no guarantee and if you don’t score in the first game you’re dropped." In which case Younis may have thought it better to pre-empt any possible embarrassment and call it quits before any such event. Despite a poor score he would still be clapped all the way back. And he would not be playing the next game because he didn’t want to, not because he wasn’t considered good enough.
In the event he went without impressing, laboring to a score of 9 in 18 balls punctuated with his typical brand of falling across his legs and reaching for far off balls with no footwork. It was a sad end to a one-day career that saw some highs and considered valuable until the character of the game changed.
Now he was clearly a misfit and when he mistimed a pull and walked off for the last time in a One Day International it was sad that it was in front of a sparse crowd.
He deserved a better send-off as he has served Pakistan well through his career.
Now he continues in the format he serves best and for the next two years should be chasing the magical figure of 10,000 runs. That will be some way to end a career.