December 2001 Karachi Airport: my flight had just landed from Lahore; it was around midnight and unusually quiet at the airport. I was heading towards the baggage area when I came across two men.
One of them was Shahid Afridi, who was already a star at that point, so I couldn’t help but jump in joy to have seen him in person. I had recently gotten myself a Nokia 3310, so all I thought of was to somehow ask for Afridi’s mobile number so I could flaunt this achievement among friends and family. I gathered the courage and asked but he politely refused. The other person, all chirpy and smiling gave me his number without any hesitation. I didn’t even want his number.
As a young fan, I was star struck to the extent that I completely ignored the man next to Shahid Afridi. That man who gave me his phone number was none other than the legend himself, YOUNIS KHAN.
When I recall this incident now, it only makes me laugh at my inability to have enjoyed and treasured the moment I shared with the now leading test run scorer for Pakistan. At that point not even in my wildest imagination could I have thought that this man would achieve so much for our country.
Younis Khan recently announced his retirement from test cricket. The upcoming test series against the West Indies will be last time we get to sit back and relish the greatness of this man. His absence from the team is not only a setback for his fans and all cricket lovers but also his team mates who’ve always looked upto him for inspiration. But as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.”
Let’s revisit some of the key moments of his illustrious career.
Younis made his test debut against Sri Lanka at Rawalpindi. Saeed Anwar and co were put into bat by Sanath Jayasuriya. The first innings proved to be a disaster as Pakistan could only manage a mere 182 runs, out of which Younis only scored 12. But then, to everyone’s surprise YK ended up with a fighting hundred in the 2nd innings. It did not prove to be a match winning one but a hundred on your debut is a dream start for any player. That is how the journey of Younis Khan began, a journey that stretched over 17 years, and saw plenty more iconic rearguard stands in the final innings.
Pakistan v India has always been special, and in 2005 Pakistan was playing a test series in India after a gap of almost 6 years.
This was also the first time Younis got an opportunity to display his batting heroics against the old foe. The three match test series began at Mohali, where the 1st test was saved by Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq and ended in a draw. YK came to the party in the 2nd match at Kolkata by scoring 147 in the 1st innings but it ended up being for a losing cause.
It all came down to the final test in Bangalore, where Younis Khan made his presence felt in India, and HOW! He scored a match winning 267 in the first innings alongside the great Inzamam-ul-Haq who scored 184 (in his 100th test match). And that was not all, as YK went on to score an unbeaten 84 in the 2nd innings making sure Pakistan had every chance at squaring the series.
His love affair with the Indian bowlers continued in coming years as he went on to score 3 more hundreds against them. All hail the mighty King.
The Tri Nation series was played between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2008 in Bangladesh. Having lost to India in the group match, Pakistan and India met once more in the final.
The Pakistani fans were hoping against hope for a turn of fortunes in the final and their prayers were answered as Pakistan went on to win by 25 runs. This win would not have been possible without the contribution of Younis Khan. YK scored his 2nd ODI hundred against India, a gritty knock of 108 from just 99 balls. He was also declared man of the match and deservingly so.
Limited overs cricket never seemed to be YK’s forte yet he managed to score 7249 runs at an average of 31.34 in 265 matches. He’s also 6th on the list of all time highest run scores for Pakistan in ODI’s.
Younas Khan sweeps one away. India v Pakistan, Kitply Cup final, Mirpur, June 14, 2008
Pakistan were playing a test match after almost a gap of over a year and this series against Sri Lanka also proved to be the last test series to be ever played in Pakistan till date.
Younis Khan who was also made the captain of the team (again) at that time, was meant to score a triple century in front of his home crowd - it was written in the stars. He became only the 3rd Pakistani ever after Hanif Mohammad and Inzamam ul Haq to reach the landmark at that point.
Before the start of this WT20 campaign, Younis Khan wasn’t certain about his future in the shortest format of the game, yet he accepted the challenge of captaincy despite all odds being against him. He wasn’t suited to T20 cricket, and no one rated his team highly before the start of the tournament either.
Before a do or die match against the Netherlands, YK said: "It would be sad if we don't make it, but I have never attached too much importance to Twenty20 cricket, as it is fun cricket. I mean it is more for entertainment, even if it is international cricket. It is all for the crowd." At the time, it drew hackles and was seen as proof that the Pakistani captain was leading a non-serious side.
In actual fact, it became as galvanising a speech as Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’, as YK went on to inspire his team to lift the WT20 trophy and entertain the crowd like no other. The country needed this win like never before, at a time when cricket was hit by terrorism, and it was a gift by Younis Khan and his men for their nation to cherish forever.
After the T20 WC win, YK captained Pakistan in two bilateral ODI series and lost both. Then came the Champion’s Trophy in South Africa. Younis Khan wasn’t scoring runs at all though he somehow managed to lead the team into the semi final.
The semi-final was against the Kiwis, and it was a match which Pakistan went on to lose. Younis Khan dropped a crucial catch of Grant Elliott at a juncture where the match could’ve gone Pakistan’s way. This did not go well with the fans, and cries of match fixing were heard.
Younis wanted to step down from captaincy, especially since reports claimed that all the players had turned against him as well. After some tumultuous hearings in the Senate and various run-ins with the PCB, Younis Khan decided he had enough and disappeared on a fishing trip. In his absence, the PCB banned him for life before eventually lifting the ban and simply refusing to select him.
But eventually it turned out that the team couldn’t go on without him, and after the absolute disaster of the spot-fixing tainted 2010 tour to England, the PCB meekly brought the warrior back into the side.
Youins Khan just loves to accomplish the impossible, and his favourite team to bat against seems to be Sri Lanka. YK has scored 8 hundreds and 6 fifties against the Lankans.
In 2015, during the 3rd and final test in a series tied at 1-1, Sri Lanka set a target of 377 for Pakistan to chase. The task almost seemed impossible but YK had other plans. He not only scored an unbeaten match winning knock of 171 but guided the novice Shan Masood to his hundred as well as he also played his part in ensuring Pakistan chased down the target.
It was one of the many times Younis showed off his ability to marshall young players to great heights.
YK’s unbeaten 171 led Pakistan to their highest successful chase and also gave Pakistan their first series win in Sri Lanka since 2006. He reached a few personal milestones as well, as his 171 was the highest in the fourth innings of a test by a Pakistani batsman, and he also became the first batsman from any country to score five centuries in the fourth innings of a Test. #ALLHAILTHEKING
I am not certain if Younis Khan was destined to become the leading run scorer for Pakistan but with his sheer grit and hard work he achieved what no one would have thought of at the start of the millennium.
In 2015, Younis Khan became the highest run scorer in Tests for Pakistan, surpassing Javed Miandad during the final session of day one of the 1st test against England at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. YK broke Miandad’s record of 8832 runs in his trademark fashion of reaching landmarks. He hit Moeen Ali out of the park for a six.
YK has scored 9977 runs till now at an average of 53.06. He has all to play for in his last series. All he needs is a mere 23 runs to join the 10k club, and might as well surpass Sunil Gavaskar's run tally of 10122. We can only keep our fingers crossed and let YK cast his spell on us one last time through his batting.
This was the final test match of the series and England were leading by 2-1. Younis Khan had not performed the way all of us thought he would in the previous three matches. He didn’t just look out of sorts but rather seemed like he didn’t belong to the cricket pitch any longer. But who are we to even doubt the master? He made a few technical adjustments and scored a mind blowing knock of 218 runs out of nowhere. As usual the top order didn’t fire and it was down to him, the backbone of our middle order to weave his magic. It was his last ever knock in the UK and he made sure he engraved it in our hearts forever. Pakistan won the final match and drew a pulsating series 2-2.
Pakistan’s tours down under have never been memorable ones. This time was no different but Younis Khan still had a personal milestone to achieve. His highest score in Oz before this tour was 87 scored in 2004, having missed out on the 2010 tour due to his ridiculous ban. YK scored a brilliant 175 not out (in a losing cause but who cares) that saw him become the first batsman to score hundreds in ten different countries. We got to see the ever smiling Younis Khan battle it out at Sydney one last time.
With his final series to come, and a career full of highlights, don’t be surprised if Younis Khan serves up a few more during the tour in the Windies. It would be a fine farewell to Pakistan’s greatest ever batsman.