‘Special’ Younis Khan impressed Sanath Jayasuriya, Saqlain Mushtaq before debut

Former Pakistan off-spinner revealed an inspirational incident regarding the Pakistan batting great

‘Special’ Younis Khan impressed Sanath Jayasuriya, Saqlain Mushtaq before debut PHOTO: AFP

Former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq has revealed an inspirational incident regarding batting great Younis Khan, before the beginning of the latter’s illustrious career.

The 43-year-old, who picked up 208 wickets in 49 Tests and 288 wickets in 169 One-day Internationals (ODIs) for Pakistan, said that after showing outstanding performance in the domestic cricket in 2000, Younis was included in Pakistan squad for the series against the visiting Sri Lankan team.

“I was made captain of President XI for a side match against the visitors. Younis’ name was also in the list of the players for that match,” said Saqlain, in a YouTube video, while recollecting how President XI suffered defeat in that match due to bad weather conditions.

He said that on the request of the then Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya another side match was arranged between the two teams ahead of the Test series to give much needed practice to players.

“Sri Lanka batted first and probably they scored around 160 to 170 runs in that match,” he said. “Younis was outstanding in the field in that match. The way he was running in the ground was also amazing. I was surprised to see the confidence in him.”

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Saqlain said that he deputed Younis to field near the boundary when the latter himself asked it.

“He took two great catches while also running out a batsman on a direct throw from the boundary line. I was compelled to think that this chap has something very special about him,” he said.

But the former off-spinner said that he wanted to see whether the confidence and resilience, which Younis was displaying in the field, would also be visible when he would bat.

“When [during our batting] we needed around 80 to 85 in last 10 to 12 overs, I saw Younis walking around [anxiously] in the dressing room,” he said. “Sitting in one corner [of the dressing room] I was trying to note what the young players, who were given chance in that match are doing.”

“Younis came to me and while tapping on my shoulder said: “Captain! Send me [for batting]. I will win this match for my team In Shaa Allah”. I told him that things are going on quite well and I’ll see later. But after one over, he again came to me [with the same request]. I saw him from head to toe; his confidence and self-belief was amazing,” he added. “When our next wicket fell, Younis went in to bat. His running between the wickets, the technique to play within gaps and hitting boundaries and sixes when needed were breath-taking. Pakistan won that match courtesy to Younis Khan, who remained unbeaten.”

The fire within him to win and the spirit not to give up surprised me a lot.

“After we won the match, Sanath Jayasuriya came to me and said: buddy who is this boy?” he said.  

“I told him I also don’t know him much as I missed this domestic season due to national team’s engagements. But I told him that he is here due to his performance in the domestic cricket,” Saqlain responded.  

Jayasuriya was also impressed with Younis’ confidence and batting style. He also remarked that this boy is someone very ‘special’.

Saqlain said that when after the side matches, the concerned PCB officials sought his opinion about the new players and he was not hesitant to present Younis Khan’s name.

“I told them there is only one boy, who has impressed me and that is Younis Khan. I told them that this boy wants to give a message to the entire Pakistani nation and surprise them with his performance,” he said. “I didn’t want to say that he was included in Pakistan team only on my recommendations. It was his hard work, skills, confidence and self-belief that earned him a place in the national team.”

“The selectors included him in the squad against Sri Lanka. He hit 100 in his debut and from there he never looked back. He kept on piling runs. And wherever, he went he played cricket within his own style,” he concluded.