Friday, August 1, 2014

Where does Younis Khan fit in Pakistan's ODI plans?

The PCB announced Pakistan's ODI squad for the tour of Sri Lanka over a month and a half before the 1st ODI, which is quite early by PCB's standards. As always the selectors sprung a surprise on everyone by including Younis Khan in the ODI squad, 16 months after Younis played his last ODI game.

The opinion on Younis Khan in Pakistan is quite divided. While some believe that he has past his sell by date in ODIs, others believe that he still has a lot to offer in ODIs, particularly with the World Cup round the corner, and that batsmen chosen to play instead of him have not really impressed during the period Younis has been away from the team.

Considering that he has been selected now, the assumption is that he is on the selector's radar for the upcoming World Cup in Australia. The 15 man squad chosen for the Sri Lanka tour is likely to be Pakistan's squad for the World Cup next year, with the only change being the inclusion of Mohammad Irfan in place of one of the seamers.

Lets try and analyze whether Younis Khan's selection make sense or not. 

1. 11th Best Batsman in Pakistan

If Pakistan selected its playing XI based on batting averages of its players since 1st January 2010, then Younis Khan will just make it to the team as the last name on the team sheet.

2. Better than Reserves?

The statement that batsmen that have replaced Younis Khan in Pakistan's ODI team have not done enough to cement their place in the team is somewhat true.

Batsmen like Asad Shafiq and Umar Amin have failed miserably in ODIs during this period and selecting Younis Khan over these batsmen in Pakistan's ODI squad is justified.

However, there are batsmen like Azhar Ali, Nasir Jamshed, Imran Farhat, and an allrounder like Abdul Razzaq who have all performed better than Younis Khan, yet they find themselves out of favour with the selectors.

It is really a matter of opinion whether Younis Khan is the best reserve ODI batsmen in Pakistan or not, but selecting Younis in the squad and then not playing him in the XI doesn't really make sense.

Is Pakistan really looking to take Younis on tour as a reserve player?

I doubt it.

3. Pakistan's Top 6

Pakistan's recent ODI matches have painted a decent picture regarding their top 6: Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Misbah Ul Haq, Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal.

You really cannot drop any of those batsmen and fit Younis Khan into the playing XI.

It will be grossly unfair to drop Sohaib or Fawad and play Younis.

I say place your bets on Younis not being part of Pakistan's top 6 at the 2015 World Cup. And if you are a casino fan then visit and play some casino games in French,

4. Pakistani Batsmen in Australia & New Zealand

Another popular opinion in Pakistan is that with the World Cup being played in Australia and New Zealand next year, Pakistan will benefit from the experience of Younis Khan in their batting line up.

Sure Younis Khan is an experienced batsman, but he has been a mediocre ODI batsman at the very best. A career average of 31 and only 6 ODI centuries in over 250 ODIs does not provide much confidence for a number 3 batsman, the position Younis has played in for majority of his ODI career.

Moreover, his record in Australia and New Zealand over the past 10 years is nothing to write home about either.

Lower order batsmen like Iftikhar Anjum, Sohail Tanvir, Azhar Mahmood, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar and Naveed ul Hasan average better than Younis does in Australia and New Zealand.

Forget that. Shoaib Malik averages better than Younis does in those countries!

So how does taking Younis to the World Cup really benefit Pakistan?

Forever I have talked and written about Younis Khan as one of the best test batsmen to be produced by Pakistan. I rate him as one of the best test batsmen in the world. If he were born in India, England, or Australia, he would be among the top 5 run scorers in Test Cricket today. It is a real shame that Pakistan does not play as much test cricket as those countries, as they will never get to witness the world-class star that Younis Khan is.

But as an ODI batsman, Younis Khan has always been poor, give or take a couple of match winning innings.

As I built up this case, I completely convinced myself that Younis Khan is not the best choice to include in Pakistan's ODI set up. At the same time, I also realized that Abdul Razzaq makes a strong case for inclusion, particularly for the World Cup.

Other potential replacements for Younis Khan in the 15 man squad are Nasir Jamshed and Azhar Ali. Azhar's strike rate may leave much to be desired, but if Pakistan is looking for someone to hold one end up in Australia, they may not find a better person to do it than him.

Younis Khan should definitely not feature in Pakistan's ODI plans. The selectors were right in discarding him 16 months ago. Selecting him now is looking backwards, while what the PCB should be doing is looking forward to February and March 2015.

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