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Pakistan rise from the ashes

cricket Updated: Jun 20, 2009 00:02 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times
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Mahendra singh Dhoni and Younis Khan – two international captains as different from each other as can be. Dhoni is Captain Cool – always wearing the same stoic demeanour, never flinching, no matter how desperate the situation, no matter how imminent defeat is. Dhoni likes to be in charge of his team at all times.

Then there’s Younis. If being Indian captain is the toughest job in cricket, leading Pakistan has to be the most dangerous. Pakistan have always liked to change their skippers. And while some of those changes might have justified, most of them were knee-jerk reactions to one bad series, or sometimes, half a series. The Pakistan captaincy is almost like a baggage carousel – everyone’s time will come, it’s when that’s the question.

Approached after Shoaib Malik’s time at the top was up, Younis, who had rejected the post after the 2007 World Cup, decided to give it a go.

It wasn’t a great start to his reign – his first Test series was cut short by the Lahore attack, while the Aussies beat them in the ODIs. As is so often the case with Pakistan, there were calls for Younis’s head, with the batsman reportedly mulling over a resignation ahead of the World T20.

But he didn’t. Instead, he altered his approach. He knew he had the players to win him any game, and backed them to the hilt. It’s not hard to see that the Pakistani players like playing under him. No matter what Shahid Afridi was asked at Friday’s press conference, he would begin and end every answer with praise for his skipper.

“Younis backed me right through,” Afridi said. “He told me that I am the team’s main matchwinner and I should play my game, without worrying about anything else.” It wasn’t too long ago that everyone had a real go at Younis’s captaincy, with chief selector Abdul Qadir resigning after Pakistan’s loss to England. That seems ages ago now, though Younis hasn’t forgotten. “What he said was wrong. He shouldn’t have gone public. But, I want to see what he says if we win on Sunday,” Younis said.

Dhoni and Younis came to England having treaded different paths, with Dhoni the supreme leader of the defending champions, and Younis trying his best to motivate a bunch of talented but temperamental cricketers.

A fortnight after the two met at the Oval, however, it is Younis who stands on the brink of glory.