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Those 25 Younis Khan runs at Lord's

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England_Pakistan_Test_series_cricketCricket gods, if they existed, will probably haunt Younis Khan and conspire against him for the rest of his life for the sort of innings he “played” to compile at Lord’s, the home of Cricket.

“No Younis, not here… not at Lord's at least. To the empty stands in the Caribbean islands or in UAE, you may well opt to dig out such a grave for yourself but not here when everyone’s watching. Not here Younis…,” they would have yelled at him.

Such was his 95 ball vigil in his 2nd innings at Lord's. Utterly ugly, grotesque, and completely opposed to everything that stands for beauty in this world. Could any other team’s No.4 batsman stoop to that obnoxious style of batting? Could anyone who calls himself a batsman bat like he did and yet continue to be called so? Could anyone expose himself so much at the heart of Mecca of cricket, which was to be beheld by the entire cricket world?

Yes. It had to happen, and had to happen at Lord's. It was destined to, I believe. One of the world’s most highly regarded batsman, a nation’s top scorer, could very well struggle like any of us, and worse too. But how did he respond?

He put his hand up, head down, and fought the way he knows, like a true warrior. His piety towards batting was unmatchable. It didn’t matter to him how he looked or how one saw him bat. The only thing that mattered was his wicket, on which a life seemed at stake. His batting did not make any hearts jump in glee, but I’m sure it left many hearts heavy after having witnessed his epic struggle in the middle.

He’s no Picasso. He doesn’t paint the most beautiful pieces of art. He isn’t authorized to play the elegant shots, nor is he supposed to be beautiful. He is here for a different reason.

 

He is here to toil, to ungracefully pile runs, to work for himself and his team with a bigger heart than some others. He is here to score runs which others can’t, to put those extra yards which others don’t. He is here to stretch those tireless legs and bend that old back of his as if they haven’t grown aged a day. He is here to defy logic and age. He is here not for style and elegance but for matter and substance. He is here to hold a mirror to us, to show us where we stand, if only we could see.

It has never been about grace with Younis. Even the cover drives and on drives, which over the years have made many batters look elegant, have eluded him. His scratchy, scabby, back and across movement, which has worsened with every passing year, doesn’t help any of the shots that please a romantic’s mind. For instance, in Sri Lanka, he turned down an elegant pull to display one of his own inventions. He was airborne, his shoulders were completely opened up, and his wrists played all over the short pitched ball to force it through midwicket. Aesthetically it couldn’t have gone any worse but effectively it yielded the same four runs.

En route to his debut hundred at Rawalpindi, batting in the 90s, the 22 year old Younis Khan could afford a broad smile, burying the nervousness in his stomach. Despite the adversities over the years, the infectious smile of his has only got broader. Irrespective of things around him, he never shies away from a smile even today.

He chews and spits his troubles and turmoils through his helmet grill and then smiles. He chews and spits them again and then smiles again. All I remember is that mirror. He is here to hold that little piece of glass as much as his strained and age defying bat. Amidst the adversities, are we capable of producing such a smile so often in our lives?

If even the greatest struggle the way he did at Lord’s then there is no shame in us failing time and again while striving for that elusive success. If the greatest can dare to be exposed at the grand stage for a bigger cause, then no shame in us being exposed for a right cause too. If he can look so silly yet be so great then so can we. If we too can forget our critics, dismiss onlookers, and play the day to its merit and dare to put the harder yards in life each day then we too can be a Younis Khan one day, and that to me is a wonderful message.

The mirror one day had to be held at Lord’s too, for all of us to see, learn, strive and believe.

 

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