Misbah and Younis – big shoes to fill
21 Apr 2017 - 0:28
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
Accumulating 23 runs to complete a personal milestone of 10,000 runs wouldn't be a problem for Pakistan's Younis Khan this week. Similarly, grinding out another 50 runs won't be much of a sweat for Pakistan's ageless batting star Misbah Ul Haq who looks set to reach a mini-landmark of 5,000 Test runs.
The problem, for Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), in essence, would be how to fill the vacuum created by their impending retirements from Test cricket following the three-match series against the West Indies.
A couple of weeks ago, Misbah and Younis announced that the Test series starting today between hosts West Indies and Pakistan will be final bow for the team's batting stalwarts.
With Misbah and Younis ready to walk into their sunset of Test careers, Pakistan fans - and the cricket fraternity in general - would do well to appreciate what they got to savour since the duo won the green caps in 2000 and 2001 respectively.
Younis broke into the Pakistan Test side against the visiting Sri Lankans in Rawalpindi in 2000 under the captaincy of Saeed Anwar. The 22-year-old produced a dogged century in the second innings though Sri Lanka emerged winners by two wickets.
That was Younis' first of 34 Test centuries and a star was born.
Misbah, a late starter at age 27, got into the Test side the following year in New Zealand in a game where Younis smashed a comeback 149 not out to seal Pakistan's big win in Auckland. With a sedate batting display of 28 and 10, Misbah launched his career with a win but clearly had promises to keep.
Fast forward to 2017 and the two have carved a name for themselves, helping Pakistan tackle difficult times more often than not.
Of the two, Younis plied his trade in a dutiful manner since his Test debut, nudging for runs without the bravado of an Inzamam Ul Haq or Mohammed Yusuf, two of Pakistan's top Test cricketers of the last couple of decades.
The 39-year-old did his reputation no harm in compiling an incredible personal set of centuries against all Test playing nations including a Test-best of 309 against Sri Lanka in 2009, just three months before guiding Pakistan to a T20 World Cup win in England as captain.
Along the way, Younis scored Test double hundreds in Bengaluru, Abu Dhabi, Chittagong, Harare and at the Oval last summer to firmly lay claims of being Pakistan's finest Test batsman.
Misbah, with more ins and outs of the squad than his 10 Test centuries, was asked to lead the national team and resurrect Pakistan's cricket fortunes in October 2010, just three months after the spot-fixing scandal that eventually saw three of teammates jailed in England.
With Pakistan not getting to play cricket on its soil since March 2009, the United Arab Emirates became 'home' away from home for Pakistan players and more so for Misbah who captained the team with authority and calmness that the side so desperately required.
The 42-year-old now proudly holds the record of most Test wins as Pakistan captain and with a success ratio that puts his name above the legendary Imran Khan. Misbah even smashed the then join-fastest Test century - just taking 56 balls for an unbeaten 101 - against the Aussies in November 2014.
For a man who has hit 73 sixes in Test cricket (the highest tally is owned by Brendon McCullum with 107), the power-packed hundred from Misbah against the Aussies came as no surprise as Pakistan pushed for quick runs. Clean hitting is Misbah's forte and the tall right-hander rarely miss-hits one.
Captain Misbah brought up his 10th Test hundred at Lord's last English summer and guided the team to an exciting 2-2 result that left most cricket fans convinced that Pakistan had buried the ghost of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal that brought the country - and the game - plenty of shame.
England captain Alaistar Cook, putting his arm around Misbah's wide shoulders - at the end of the Oval Test where Younis smashed a series-equalling 218 - was the moment of the English summer.
Just days later, Misbah proudly received the Test mace from ICC's Dave Richardson for guiding Pakistan to the top of world rankings in the longest format of the game, the ageless batting star's finest moment in his fine Test career.
Younis needs 23 runs to become Pakistan's first man to reach 10,000 mark in Test cricket and the 13th batsman to do it worldwide. Misbah is just 49 runs away from the 5,000-mark in Test cricket.
How these two perform in the West Indies - all of a sudden - has become all-too important for Pakistan cricket fans since in this T20 era of power-hitting, quality batters in Test cricket are hard to find.