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A spark for Pakistan cricket! - Chetan Narula column
by Chetan Narula
Feb 26, 2009
A triple century is always special. Besides the obvious weight of runs scored, it speaks volumes of the player's caliber to string together such an innings, especially when he has batted almost three days to get there. Unless of course he is Virender Sehwag who generally takes half that time to do so!

Then to add on, is the situation that his team may be in. You can't really undermine a triple hundred ever but if the team is in dire straits then, without doubt the significance increases many fold. Brian Lara's 400 not out is all very good for waking cricket historians up from their slumber, but it was a bit selfish on the then West Indian skipper's part to carry on at the expense of his team, as they ultimately couldn't beat England. In that respect, Sehwag's triple ton last year in April when he saved India the blushes against South Africa at Chennai would perceptibly matter more.

What adds a cherry to the cake is if the team, and cricket in your country, is in a state of unbelievable turmoil. Now, any cricket fan is aware of the problems Pakistan Cricket is facing, so let's not beat that bush again. Rather, all should rise to applaud the onset of what may be another hallowed period in their cricketing history. For make no mistake, cricket in our neighboring country needed not just a shot in the arm, some one actually needed to shake them upside-down, and wake this sleeping giant.

And so, newly made skipper Younis Khan couldn't have timed his triple ton better. That the first test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was going to be a draw, was clear after the first innings itself. Usually the bowlers need some life to help them get twenty wickets, but if the 22-yards laid out is a sleeping beauty then what results is 1400 runs in the first two innings, inclusive of two double centuries, one triple ton and another hundred. Is this how you get the crowds into the grounds, after test cricket is resumed after a gap of fifteen months? That is something the pitch curators' association in Pakistan will have to ponder upon!

Yes, no, yes, no and finally yes! After a lot of persuasion, Khan has finally accepted the job that has been for his taking all the while that Shoaib Mallik was messing around with it. After Inzamam's farewell, Younis was the heir apparent but wanted the power to iron out the deficiencies in the squad and that is all he asked for when he wanted complete control. If it would have been so, maybe just maybe, his partnership with Jeff Lawson would have worked wonders for Pakistan cricket.

Conjecture possibly has no place in sport, but the above observation isn't found on that. One look at the way Younis Khan plays his cricket will suffice in proof that he will no doubt do a better job, if given a long enough stint and good, unified support from the players and team management. Aggressive, both against spin and pace, he is the number three batsman of his team, the one to hold them together if they begin to fall apart or give them a push if the start is good enough. And he is fit too, push-ups as part of a hundred celebrations might just become his trademark.

Shoaib Malik's reign at the helm of affairs was reflective of the times that Pakistan cricket was experiencing. Directionless is a word when associated with anyone, or anything, shows how lost that object is then. Malik didn't know better than blame his team mates after every series loss, showing them down in public. That didn't sit pretty with big egos like Shahid Afridi or Shoaib Akhtar, but the single biggest downside to that particular time was the fact that it pushed Mohammad Yousuf to the ICL.

Yousuf is probably one of the most complete batsmen this game has ever known and you cannot treat such players as trash. No wonder then, it was a case of everything going away from the PCB; the players, the tournaments, the money, and even their staunchest supporters BCCI turned their backs on them. Clearly, there was no one more lost than Pakistan cricket in the last year or so.

So, why is one hailing Younis Khan after just one match in charge? Well, the answer lies in the Sri Lankan second innings. Pakistan closed their first innings 121 runs ahead and just had around two hours to try and do something extra ordinary. Taking four wickets is nothing out of the ordinary indeed, but the way the Pakistani players moved on the field; looking agile and in-the-game, never once letting the shoulders droop, looking out always for that chance that might be coming spoke volumes of the talk their skipper must have delivered before they began bowling.

It was in that short span of time that the match actually came alive for the first time in five days and only one team looked in control. That team being the one which hasn't played test cricket in more than a while, which has a lot of young new faces trying to prove a point and a new skipper who is looking to provide a bright spark, leading from the front. Pakistan cricket can indeed celebrate the arrival of Younis Khan as skipper, and move forward in hushed anticipation!

(The columnist is a sports writer based in New Delhi, India.)
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