Michael Jackson’s tour of the UK scheduled for this year was being hailed as the “Return of the King”. Jackson was the King of Pop and unfortunately, his fans will not see his much-awaited return. But there is another King, and his fans did see his fantastic return where he silenced all critics and cemented his status as a legendary batsman.
If consistency is the criterion, then no Pakistani batsman can match Yousuf. Since 2000, Yousuf has never averaged under 40 in a given year in Tests. What makes Yousuf different to Inzamam and Younis is that Yousuf has somehow garnered 24 Test centuries without being noticed. That very fact makes Yousuf seem less significant to the team at the same time; indeed, Inzamam and Younis generally made/make centuries to save or win matches for Pakistan.
Yet, that should not make one think less of Yousuf. Tendulkar, probably the greatest batsman of all time also does not have a reputation of being a match winner for India. But he has scored plenty of runs at amazing consistency, something he shares with Mohammad Yousuf.
The century Yousuf made in his comeback Test is more than just an addition to his glorious statistics. It has demonstrated a side of Yousuf we don’t see regularly- or perhaps we don’t notice when we ought to. Such is Yousuf’s meek and introverted personality that as an individual, he often fails to get himself noticed. Yet, his bat has done the talking, and his statistics don’t lie. In this comeback Test we have seen Yousuf’s mental strength, we have seen his “revenge” on certain team mates or PCB officials who thought he was redundant, and most important of all, Yousuf has made us realise how much the team needs him and how much the Pakistan cricket fans need him.
Yousuf fought to get this century. He survived many close LBW appeals. He ran hard and he persisted in humid conditions. The determination was visible on his face and his body language. Only a great player can arrive on the crease with such contrivance, and have the guts, skill and tenacity to see it through. Every run he obtained was through careful, workman-like execution. His trademark lazy and effortless drives were barely seen. However, there is a certain charm and a certain elegance to the way Yousuf makes his many runs, whatever the circumstances and however the execution thereof. So much so that even an innings that features only a handful of boundaries seems like a spectacle.
Consistency has not been the strength of Pakistan’s batsmen. Inzamam was a great player, but he was inconsistent. Similarly, Younis is also very talented, but batting at no 3 has affected his consistency. Yousuf is an anomaly in this regard. It is difficult to recall the last time when Yousuf did not perform in a few consecutive series. That has probably never happened in his career. We give Inzamam the credit for being a matchwinner. We give Younis the credit for making huge centuries and being a fighter. Perhaps we ought to appreciate Mohammad Yousuf for his consistency, which has been a rare trait in Pakistani batsmen. Consistency may not win you many matches, but it makes you a very skilled and professional player. The return of the King has been phenomenal, and now fans hope the King will rule the world once again with aplomb and make plenty of runs for Pakistan.