5 - 11, 2010

Hell has not let loose, neither did cricket fans in droves descended on streets setting on bon fires and demanding return of Muhammad Yousuf after the elegant bearded batsman took a calculated risk to formally announce his retirement from international cricket recently.

His friends in electronic media who are said to have prompted the player to make a formal announcement of quitting international, may have assured the batsman to take the plunge pledging him their all out support and assuring him that a sustained media campaign would bring the PCB on its knees and it would come begging him to take back his retirement.

The announcement is simply display of player power. Test cricketers with five star test value have in the past used the same trick as had Yousuf played to show to the cricket establishment that they can make them bite the dust. However first time the calculation of Muhammad Yousuf looked to have fallen flat.

The PCB has not come running to him to take back the decision. The ball now is in the court of the player who is expected to grab the opportunity to take back his decision with the first hint.

But nothing of the sort happened. The Pakistan Cricket Board reacted coolly and came up with a terse reaction that retirement announcement was a personal matter for the cricketer and that it respects the decision of the players, thus dumping the entire episode to the cold storage of Pakistan cricket history which is replete with examples when cricketers had miscalculated to their own disadvantage with similar kind of announcement in the past.

Thirty six year old Yousuf at a media staged reception held at Karachi Press Club messed up the occasion specially arranged to announce his retirement. His media friends had given him a written statement to read at the reception but in the excitement they forgot to mention the formal announcement of retirement. And it came only when some from the audience curtly asked him was he announcing his retirement.

The simpleton Yousuf who was being led by fingers from inexperienced well intended media friend responded by saying yes that was his retirement.

Probably his elders and friends whom he had said consulted before deciding to retire did no brief him properly because in the Q&A session he was vague while responding to a number of queries about his decision.

His standard answer to a variety of questions regarding what really prompted him to retire were not clear. He did not say that he has taken the step in protest against the indefinitely period of ban put on his selection in the team but actually had made the decision due to the wordings of the PCB announcement which reads his presence in the team would be harmful to Pakistan team.

He did not say his decision was final and irrevocable and repeatedly added that the decision was "for now" giving sufficient hint that he would run back into the team fold with first hint from the PCB. But it seems the PCB for the time being wanted to play cool and let the star sweat in the cold.

Why did Muhammad Yousuf decide to quit? It was done in reaction to a decision of the PCB after an enquiry into the causes behind Pakistan's extremely poor performance on New Zealand and Australian tour recently.

The specially committee given the task to look into the debacle was of the opinion that Muhammad Yousuf who led Pakistan on Australian leg of the tour and Younus Khan because of their irresponsible behaviour affected team's moral on the tour. The committee recommended baring selection of these two most experienced players from future Pakistan team for an indefinite period of time which actually meant barring the players from futures selection.

The PCB did not identify real reasons behind the disciplinary action but only stated that their presence in the team would be harmful to the team. The PCB however gave the players right to appeal.

Muhammad Yousuf preferred to quit than go for an appeal which would have been a better way to deal with a problem that would be passed on with the passage of time in favour of Muhammad Yousuf.

This is not the first time that Muhammad Yousuf had differences with the PCB. His involvement with the so called rebel Indian Cricket League has also brought the wrath of the PCB which banned him and all others who signed for the rich ICL from any type of cricket.

His contact with the ICL led to the termination of his central contract with the PCB. Soon after Mohammad Yousuf signed up for the ICL a swift response from the Pakistan Cricket Board came. It banned him from "any type of cricket" in Pakistan and terminated his central contract.

Sudden and shocking double squeeze on his income both from the ICL and the PCB left Muhammad Yousuf shell shocked and he had no option but to look for escape.

Yousuf had initially signed up with the league in September 2007, in protest at being axed from Pakistan's squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.

He was later lured out of playing in the ICL by the Pakistan board, with the promise of a lucrative contract in the IPL. But the ICL took the matter to an arbitration court in Mumbai, arguing that as Yousuf had signed up with them, he was ineligible to play for any other league.

A stay order was passed against Yousuf's participation in the IPL, though an appeal was later filed by the PCB on Yousuf's behalf in the Bombay High Court. ICL officials said their legal wrangle with Yousuf has been sorted out and they will file a joint statement in court. "We have resolved matters mutually, ICL's business head had said.

Mohammad Yousuf had said his move to the ICL was prompted by the attitude of PCB officials and Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, and that his decision was not swayed by the money on offer.

"Everyone is saying that I have signed up for the ICL because of money but the real reason was the attitude of the PCB and Malik, which forced me to join the league. The captain never gave me the respect I deserved."

Muhammad Yousuf is one of the most elegant batsmen in Pakistan team since this country earned the test status way back in mid-fifties.

Both his life and career can be demarcated into two distinct phases. Until 2005, as Yousuf Youhana, he was only the fourth Christian to have played for Pakistan, and easily the most successful.

He converted publicly to Islam late that year, after which he became a great Pakistani batsman and briefly part of as formidable a middle order as the country has seen, with Younus Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq on either side. At least he believes there is a link, and statistics would back that up.

Immediately after, in 2006, came his most profitable year, in fact the most profitable for any batsman ever in a calendar year.

In Tests, he scored 1788 runs, breaking Sir Viv Richards' 30-year-old record. If there had been a nagging doubt that he often withered when the heat was on - and the story of his rise from extremely humble backgrounds as a member of a minority religion should've wiped those away anyway - it was erased here.

Age, run-ins with the board since, and ill-advised flirtations with the ICL and captaincy dimmed his aura but the worst came in March 2010, when the PCB imposed a ban on him, along with Younus Khan as a part of its unprecedented harsh sanctions on senior players from the ill-fated tour of Australia.

Start of Yousuf's test career could be compared to the launch of a space rocket which faces some difficulty in leaving the gravitational forces but once in the orbit it makes his way into space rapidly.

He aggregated just six runs in two innings ion his debut test in South Africa in Durban, scoring 5. Pakistan won the test by 29 runs.

He made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in Harare, scoring an unbeaten 59 to help Pakistan chase 237 with four wickets left.

Mohammad Yousuf will be remembered for his elegance and grace at the crease as much as for the runs he scored, but over his 12-year career he built up pretty imposing numbers as well. With a Test tally of 7431 runs, he is third in the all-time list for Pakistan, next only to Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq. In ODIs he is in second place with 9458 runs, behind Inzamam. Yousuf scored only six runs in two innings in his debut Test, and in his first year, his four fifties and maiden century all came against Zimbabwe. Over the first three years of his international career he had his moments, but lack of consistency meant his average just about touched 40 after his first 27 Tests.

The graph started going up in 2001, when a maiden double-century against New Zealand in Christchurch was followed by a century and another double against Bangladesh early the next year. Over the next six years beginning 2001, he had a golden run in which he scored 18 centuries in 46 Tests, including nine during an unbelievable 2006, a year in which he scored 1788 runs in 11 Tests, which remain the most by a batsman in a single calendar year.

That peak was followed by an almost inevitable trough, as over the next three years his average dipped to less than 40, with only one century in 15 matches.

Yousuf has every reason to be proud of a glittering career. His performances at Nos. 4 and 5 rank him among the best batsmen ever at those positions. Yousuf's average of 55.83 is bettered only by three batsmen - Greg Chappell, Jacques Kallis and Sachin Tendulkar. In fact, it's a touch higher than Inzamam and Miandad.

Yousuf was prolific against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and West Indies: In 19 Tests against them he scored 11 centuries, and averaged more than 101. There's a similar discrepancy between his home and away numbers too - his home average of 65.25 was 20 runs more than his away average.


Younis Khan 13 952 38.08 2/ 5
Inzamam-ul-Haq 26 1494 33.20 1/ 12
Mohammad Yousuf 18 979 29.66 1/ 6

Yousuf's ODI career didn't have as many sharp peaks, but he was consistent, averaging more than 35 each year from 2001 to 2008. The third and fourth positions were his favorites, as it gave him time to settle in and then work the ball and accumulate the runs.

Among batsmen who scored at least 3000 runs at these two positions, Yousuf's average of 47.87 is next only to Viv Richards' 52.17. Yousuf also had 56 fifty-plus knocks in 162 games, an average of one such knock every three matches.

However, as in Tests, there'll be questions about his

ability to be at his best in the big games. He averaged 31.41 in Australia, 32.16 in World Cup matches, and 28.66 in the finals of tournaments. He didn't have a single World Cup century, and only one in 19 finals.

Those stats slightly diminish what was otherwise an outstanding 12-year international career. Given the problems that Pakistan has been facing with their batting line-up, Yousuf's absence is a hole that will be very tough to fill.


Born August 27, 1974, Lahore, Punjab
Current age 35 years 217 days
Major teams Pakistan, Asia XI, Bahawalpur, Lahore, Lahore Badshahs,
Lancashire, Pakistan International Airlines, Water and Power
Development Authority, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited
Batting style: Right-hand bat Bowling style: Right-arm off break.