Boasting a Test batting average of over fifty-two which is backed by no less than thirty-nine international centuries, Mohammad Yousuf is ranked amongst Pakistan's greatest ever batsman. His poise and grace at the crease was unmatched and his record-breaking year in 2006 is something all Pakistani fans are incredibly proud of.
Yousuf's career was a roller-coaster ride with match-winning innings, disagreements with the board, retirements and comebacks, but one constant was always his magnificent ability with the bat. He announced his retirement in 2010 from all forms of international cricket but was asked to reverse his decision later that year after Pakistan's batting struggled in England. Yousuf's last appearance for Pakistan was in November 2010 when he featured in a One Day International against South Africa in Dubai.
Speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, Yousuf spoke about Inzamam-ul-Haq's appointment as Chief Selector, Pakistan's chances in the upcoming tour of England, Shahid Afridi's international future and sought to explain the reasons behind his strong criticism of Pakistan players.
By Amir Husain (10th June, 2016)
PakPassion.net : Are you impressed by the PCB’s decision to take on Inzamam-ul-Haq as Chief Selector?
Mohammad Yousuf : To appoint someone as experienced as Inzamam-ul-Haq to any position in the Pakistan Cricket Board would have been a fantastic decision. It goes without saying that a person of such ability and caliber will only do the best for Pakistan in any capacity. I, like many others, know that whatever decisions Inzamam takes will be to uphold the honour of Pakistan so I am quite pleased with his appointment as Chief Selector.
PakPassion.net : Do you expect Pakistan to do well in the upcoming tour of England?
Mohammad Yousuf : I have no reason to believe that they cannot do well. Inzamam-ul-Haq has chosen a squad which based upon his experience will be a good one for the upcoming conditions. However, the point I would like to emphasise here is that it is logical to expect Pakistan to do well against England because if they don’t display their superiority in this series then their victories in UAE can easily be questioned as being undeserving. If you claim to have the firepower and strengths to defeat England in UAE, then why can you not repeat that performance in England?
PakPassion.net : Are you satisfied with Inzamam-ul-Haq’s selection policies for the England bound Test Squad ?
Mohammad Yousuf : I have full faith in what Inzamam-ul-Haq is doing in terms of selection for the Test squad for the tour to England. The players selected are the ones that are available and also the best players we have in the country and Inzamam has done an excellent job in taking into account their credentials. One must also remember that Inzamam’s vast experience can only be a good thing for Pakistan and I am sure he has used it to good effect in the choice of the squad for the upcoming tour.
PakPassion.net : Can Pakistan afford to exclude two very talented batsmen in the shape of Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal for an important tour like this?
Mohammad Yousuf : Look this isn’t the first time these two players have had issues with the team management in regards to their disciplinary problems. From what I recall, Waqar Younis also reported issues with them in 2015 so this in itself is not a shock. He was of the opinion that these two should be kept out for both disciplinary and performance related reasons. I am at a loss to understand why Waqar Younis’ advice was not taken at that time as well.
Anyhow, Inzamam has taken this overdue step now and in my view, this is not only good for the team but is also good for the players themselves. I do believe that both of these players should not be brought back into the squad without them performing well in one or two First-Class seasons at home and improving their attitude. If a serious step like this has been taken then the selectors should stand their ground and make an example of these players. If this is not done, then there will be other instances of indiscipline and the perpetrators will know that if these two could get away with it and be back in the team then so can anyone else who has done the same.
Given the state of the team’s recent performances in Limited Overs games at least, this will not be great loss as at the worst we may lose a few more games but in the process we could end up unearthing some new talent which isn’t a bad thing. The fact is that both Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal need to be kept out of the team and told to play domestic cricket and perform well for one or two years in domestic cricket.
PakPassion.net : Do Pakistan batsmen have the capacity to face up to James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the upcoming tour?
Mohammad Yousuf : Let me first start by saying that people are making predictions on how the Pakistan batsmen will do based on how the Sri Lankans have coped so far. This to me is a big mistake. The fact is that the current Sri Lanka Test side is very weak and can in no way be compared to Pakistan. The Sri Lanka Test team is a shadow of its former self. They lack quality batsmen and are also devoid of any good quality world-class bowlers. Once Muralitharan departed from the scene, taking twenty wickets has become a near impossible task for Sri Lanka. They even lost at home to Pakistan and the team there wasn’t largely different to the one that is being mauled by England on the current tour. I do recall that even us Pakistanis were overjoyed at beating Sri Lanka then but the fact is that any decent side would have beaten them. They do not have the ability to stand up to any proper bowling attack as we are currently seeing in England. Pakistan are better than Sri Lanka and I will repeat that if this team is good enough to beat England in the UAE then they are also good enough to take on England in their own back yard. If that doesn’t happen then serious questions can be asked about how Pakistan won in the UAE where they put in some extraordinary performances.
PakPassion.net : Would you agree with experts such as Nasser Hussain who feel that England are playing superior cricket at the moment compared to their opponents?
Mohammad Yousuf : I respect their opinions as experts and former players but the fact is that anyone can predict what they like. The Pakistan team has had some amazing performances before and can do it again. I can understand that the experts are looking at the current performances of the England team and forecasting victory for themselves and they may well be right. However, if you wish to see a true comparison between both teams then only a match played in a neutral venue can really decide on which team is really the best. Both teams can probably win in their own back yards with ease.
PakPassion.net : Is it time for Shahid Afridi to retire and say farewell to international cricket now?
Mohammad Yousuf : I believe that Shahid Afridi's best cricketing years are well behind him and he should have retired a long time ago. There really is no point in him continuing given that his performances are on the decline and of course, he isn't getting any younger which cannot help.
Obviously, it’s up to the selectors and the board to decide what they wish to do with Afridi as I don’t see him leaving anytime soon. The selectors need to consider whether they wish to look ahead to the future or fall back on old players. The writing is on the wall with Inzamam-ul-Haq as Chief Selector already indicating his preference for younger players as the reason for excluding Afridi for the England bound squad. It is therefore clear that Inzamam will want to look at the future and towards newer or younger players and not go back to older players.
PakPassion.net : Are you concerned about Pakistan's openers going into such an important series?
Mohammad Yousuf : I don’t think the situation is that bleak. We do have a decent opener in the shape of Mohammad Hafeez. Now this is a different issue that his injury which has been talked about for months now seems to show no signs of abating. One would have thought that if the injury was so severe, it would have been dealt with by now but I am not convinced that the correct path has been chosen for Hafeez’s recovery or quite possibly, the true extent of the injury is not known. All we can assume is that if Inzamam-ul-Haq has chosen him for the series, then he has done it for a reason and Hafeez will be a part of the final eleven and will play an important role in the upcoming series. In that case, there is little to worry about.
PakPassion.net : That may be true, but you do accept that no decent opening batsman has stepped up after Saeed Anwar?
Mohammad Yousuf : I don’t think Pakistan or the world will ever see an opening batsman of the stature of Saeed Anwar again. His departure from the scene was a great loss for Pakistan and we have suffered ever since. The fact is that you cannot produce batsmen of that stature from our current system. We must realize that players of Saeed Anwar’s class may come once in many generations but batsmen like him or even great bowlers like Wasim or Waqar are all products of the four-day game. If we want quality players to play for Pakistan then we have to work hard to improve the longer form of the domestic game as the shorter forms will never give you players like Saeed Anwar. Make no mistake, a lot of hard work is needed to reform the domestic structure and even the board needs restructuring as well.
PakPassion.net : What is the reason behind the ‘plain-talking’ style of analysis that you have adopted in recent times?
Mohammad Yousuf : I have no agenda against anyone. But I ask those who take umbrage to my criticism just this simple question. Have I ever criticized anyone when they have performed well? Obviously that is not the case and I would challenge anyone to come forward and tell me when I have offered needless criticism. Look, even in our playing days ex-players would point out our deficiencies and we would take them in a positive manner regardless of who was saying it to us. We knew that these players were speaking out of experience and our job was to take those comments on board and improve ourselves. Remember that these were superior players like Hanif Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad and the sole reason for their comments was to improve our game; they had no personal vendetta against any of us and all they wanted was for each of us to improve ourselves and for the greater good of the country. Similarly today, if current players take on board the advice from ex-players then the benefit will surely be their own. If they cannot understand this then that is their own weakness. Unfortunately the other issue is that in today’s Pakistan, speaking the truth or pointing out someone’s mistake is akin to a sin and people don’t take too kindly to that at all.
PakPassion.net : You last played for Pakistan in 2010 but you have never officially announced your retirement...
Mohammad Yousuf : I have no intentions to play international cricket again. This is a decision that I took some time ago and I stand by it and there is no turning back from the path I have taken.