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"Bob Woolmer was like a father figure to us" : Younis Khan
by Amir Husain


Player:Younis Khan
Event:Australia in United Arab Emirates 2014/15

DateLine: 9th November 2014

 

We wish to thank www.PakPassion.net as exclusive source for the following interview.

 

Younis Khan is a name which based on the recently concluded series in the UAE, will be remembered by the Australian bowlers for a long time to come. In the two match Test series, Younis ended up as the highest run scorer for Pakistan with 468 runs to his name at an incredible average of 156 which included two centuries and a double hundred. In the process, he also moved to the number six spot in the ICC player rankings in Test matches.

 

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, 36 year old Younis spoke on a variety of subjects including his special bond with the fans, his recollections of his association with the Late Bob Woolmer, his views on captaincy and his take on Mitchell Johnson as one of the top bowlers in the world.

 

PakPassion.net: There seems to be a great bond between Pakistan fans and yourself. What is the reason for this and what do you attribute your popularity to?
Younis Khan: The main reason for this is that I always remember that I am what I am due to my country, Pakistan. Wherever and whenever I play for my country, I always try to promote the best aspects of our national character. I feel very proud to see our national flag flying around different parts of the world and to hear our national anthem as well. I feel proud that I am able to represent my country at the highest level. All Pakistan cricket followers know my qualities and also know my character and I suppose wherever I go, they appreciate me.

 

PakPassion.net : Shahid Afridi mentioned the fact that captaincy of the Pakistan team is not exactly a Ďbed of rosesí. Do you agree with that assessment?
Younis Khan: I donít agree with this. My view is that as long as you can be fair to your team mates then there is no harm in taking on the role of captain. The real problems happen when a captain gets involved in too many minor things and tries to take on too many issues to fix.

 

As a captain, the first thing you need to worry about is your own performance as only after performing well yourself can you motivate others. Then, everything else falls into place. Like I said, sometimes, captains get involved in minor details and then when things donít go their way, they feel exposed. So, basically be fair and look after the needs of the team and they will look up to you as their leader.

 

Now, your own performance is very important as well and you have to lead from the front. This you do not do with the bat and ball alone, but also by your body language, which I feel is equally important. It is quite possible that you will not perform that well in every game. However this should have no effect on the body language of the captain as the team which has youngsters in it as well, looks up to you as does the whole nation. Obviously as a captain, if you perform well, you will lead better but this should not be the case. During my time as captain, I always made sure that regardless of my personal performance, I was able to motivate the team to the best of my ability.

 

PakPassion.net: Your performances against Australia is the stuff of dreams! How would you rate these innings as far as your career is concerned?
Younis Khan: I wouldnít say that these are my best performances but the fact is that I never had any performance of note against Australia before this series. I had only played six Test matches before this series. I had first played against them in 2002 and after that played in 2005/2006 so there has been a lengthy gap before I had an opportunity to play against Australia again. Also if you consider the score situation when I arrived at the crease to play these innings then I would say that these innings happened at the right time and were good for the team as well.

 

PakPassion.net: There was an impression before the series that, given his reputation, Mitchell Johnson would be the biggest threat to Pakistan. Do you feel that the Pakistan batting countered that threat well during this series?
Younis Khan: Let me make this very clear. Mitchell Johnson is a top world class bowler and even in this series, he troubled all batsmen without a doubt by picking up wickets and maintaining a low economy rate, especially considering that these are pitches which are not that helpful to fast-bowlers.

 

You can say that we were lucky in certain aspects against him and also the fact that we were able to build some good partnerships along the way which helped us. We were able to build a momentum via our partnerships and then Australia also found itself conceding leads which put extra pressure on their bowling.

 

We also need to consider the impact of the weather in the UAE which was extremely hot at times and very distressing for fast-bowlers. So you can take all of these factors into consideration when you talk about the effectiveness of Johnson. However whichever way you look at it, the fact remains that Mitchell Johnson is a top quality bowler.

 

PakPassion.net: This may be a hypothetical scenario but would you be in a position to accept the captaincy of the Test or One Day team if it was offered to you?
Younis Khan: First of all, let me make it clear that itís indeed an honour to lead your national side. Although, it is true that I have kept myself away from this whole subject as I didnít want to be involved in any controversy. However, if in the future, I am asked to do this job and if that helps the Pakistan team to win a series or the World Cup, then I will always make myself available for this position.

 

PakPassion.net: You were very close to the late Bob Woolmer whilst he was coach of the Pakistan team. What memories do you have of that time and how did you feel when he passed away?
Younis Khan: The one thing I remember about Bob Woolmer was that he was more than a coach for the team. I miss Bob, he was like an elder family member to all of us. Bob Woolmer was like a father figure to us; one who you could approach if you had any issue to discuss. What Bob had done was to make the environment such that we felt that we were part of a family. This is why I mention him a lot in my comments because I really feel that the best part of my career coincided with Bobís tenure as coach which ended in unfortunate circumstances.

 

He treated all the players with the same respect regardless of seniority Ė whether it was Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan or Abdul Razzaq, each of us got the same level of attention. I believe we did really well under his tenure although the end wasnít as expected with us being knocked out of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, followed by the tragic loss of our beloved coach. I still feel that Bob Woolmer changed a lot about Pakistan cricket and also had a profound effect on the players as well.

 

Whilst I mention Bob, I must also mention the dark times following and around the time of his death. We had lost to Ireland and then we heard the news of Bobís passing away. One cannot describe the feelings of despair which followed that time as we spent the next three to four days after his death in the West Indies.

 

PakPassion.net: In your view, is Bob Woolmer's style of coaching and man management a blueprint for other coaches to follow as well?
Younis Khan: Definitely so, especially when you look at the lives of international cricketers nowadays. We are on tour, away from home, stuck in hotels and also you have good and bad days on the field accompanied by wins or losses. In such situations, if there is no bond or a feeling that you have family with you then you canít really survive. You need to have that feeling of being a family Ė similar to what Bob cultivated to be able to get through tough times on tour.

 

PakPassion.net: You mentioned being away from home but in Pakistanís case, this is always the case as they cannot play at home. How much does this affect the players?
Younis Khan: This has a big effect on the players. If you think about it, for a normal person, when he goes home after a long and stressful day at work, he can wind down with his family and forget about the day and relax. The same applies to us as cricketers.

 

If I say that you will be away from family for the next six months as you are on tour (or playing at Ďhomeí in UAE), and you will really be on your own then how would you feel about it? This is the same situation for us although from the outside, this looks like a pretty good thing as you are playing a sport that you like and are playing it professionally. You are getting recognized for your performances but when the day ends, you donít have the option to go back to your family and relax and forget about the tough day you have had.

 

As senior players, we had this option until 2009 as we played at home as well but spare a thought for the youngsters who came into the international side after that and how tough it is for them. This is one reason that the return of international cricket to Pakistan is very important for our youngsters.

 

PakPassion.net: Letís turn our attention to limited overs cricket and its effect on the quality of our Test batsmen. Obviously this series against Australia may not be a great example but do you think there is a link between the popularity of limited overs cricket and the decline in the quality of batsmen in Test matches?
Younis Khan: Putting this series aside, how many big scores in Test cricket are we seeing nowadays? I believe itís down to the inability to play long innings which is a concern. Given the frenetic pace of T20 games and the travelling associated with leagues, the batsmen just donít have the patience or energy to play long innings.

 

I am not against this format and the financial rewards associated with it but we need to strike a balance here. To maintain this balance, we need to promote Test cricket in the same manner. If we are playing thirty to thirty five limited overs games in a year then we must also play at least fifteen to twenty Test matches a year as well. This is important for the improvement in quality of Test batsmen.

 

In limited overs cricket you have all sorts of innovations such as power-plays where you need to hit almost every ball. Whereas in Test cricket where you have to play for long hours in heat, as we see here in the UAE, then a different type of quality is needed which I am afraid is not available if you are mostly playing limited overs games. This is why Test cricket is called as such. Itís a test of all your skills! I am not against limited overs cricket but I just want to emphasise the importance of Test cricket.

 

The fact is that whenever you look at the career of any cricketer, we always talk about his Test performances although it is possible that in a few years time we may well speak only about his T20 or One Day statistics. However, at the moment, whenever we speak of a player from any of the top cricket playing nations such as Australia, England, India or South Africa, there is a lot of emphasis on a playerís performance in Test matches and this is also backed up by the number of people who come to watch Test matches in stadiums.

 

PakPassion.net: Do you get bothered by the criticism leveled at you by some experts on television and other electronic media? Do you think itís fair and how do you deal with it?
Younis Khan: I canít comment about whether itís fair or not. However, I feel that there is no harm in listening to criticism. If someone, expert or not, is taking the time to pin-point a deficiency in your game then itís a good thing to listen and learn from that.

 

Let me tell you that in 2009 when we were travelling to a fitness camp in preparation for the World T20, my wife who was travelling with me picked up a newspaper to read on the plane. I noticed that she read some part of the newspaper and then straightaway hid it away from me. I asked her why and she said that there is something written in it which I may not like. I picked up the paper, read the comment which was not a positive statement about me as captain. I asked my wife to keep it with her in a safe place for me to look at again. Throughout the World T20, I kept on referring to it to make sure that I wasnít doing what the article said I was guilty of!

 

That piece of criticism stayed with me throughout the tournament, through the good and bad days and until we lifted the trophy. In my view, there is always room for improvement and we should never feel disheartened by any criticism leveled at us.

 

PakPassion.net: How do you feel about the return of the players who were banned for spot-fixing? Do you think they should be allowed back into the Pakistan team?
Younis Khan: My view is that if a person has served their Ďsentenceí for a mistake or misdemeanour and they can come back and serve the Pakistan team, then I have no objections to their return. Remember, the team belongs to Pakistan and if a player is cleared and he is there to serve Pakistan then no one can hold that against them.

 

PakPassion.net: What is your single most important piece of advice to the PCB for the betterment of cricket in Pakistan?
Younis Khan: The only and most important task for the PCB is the restoration of international cricket in Pakistan. I remember that when we were young, we would see Imran Khan playing cricket in the local stadium and pretend to be him or bowl like Wasim Akram when we used to see him bowl, or bat like Inzamam when he was batting in one of the international matches in the country. In fact, when I went for my Under 19 trials, Haroon Rashid who was supervising the trials said to me that I batted like Javed Miandad!

 

My point is that, youngsters will only be inspired and motivated by our players when they watch them play international cricket at the stadiums in Pakistan. PCB must put this as their number one priority.

 

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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