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Younus setting himself no targets for England tour

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KARACHI: Life has thrown enough challenges, tribulations and surprises at Younus Khan for him to be fazed easily anymore. Surprisingly though, the 38-year-old still remains a paradox; on one hand an affectionate and supportive elder statesman of the team, but on the other a quick to anger middle-aged man capable of bursting at any moment.

Of late his short-temper has attracted the wrath of many. But even his increasingly frequent indiscretions are likely to be forgotten if he adds a match-winning century or two to a national record 31 in what is Pakistan’s most challenging Test tour in years.

Sri Lanka’s Perera eager for return at Lord’s

The tour of England provides Younus the chance for redemption, of vindicating the love and admiration he has received over the years despite those moments of controversy.

And Younus is urging the fans to support the team no matter what. “I want fans to stand by us. When we win, celebrate with us wholeheartedly but also support us when we don’t meet expectations,” Younus told The Express Tribune.

The right-hander said he doesn’t like to set himself targets. “I am not at all thinking about big achievements or setting goals, I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself; this is how I have played in recent years — minimising expectations,” he said.

The build-up to the four-Test tour has been exhaustive; a seven-day skills camp followed a 12-day fitness camp that, according to Younus, helped the younger players immensely. “The youngsters achieved a lot; they realised how much they can push their bodies and what kind of fitness goals they need to set for themselves,” he said. “The skills camp was great too, the ground staff worked really hard to give us conditions similar to England, and we used Duke balls to train.”

But Younus knows English conditions will test them in more ways than one and is therefore not looking to change his game too much.

Junaid mulling swapping England for Pakistan

“Test cricket in England has so much history, you feel an additional pressure which either helps you perform or bogs you down,” he said. “The weight of history can be daunting but also a motivating factor. A stable state of mind is more important than technical adjustments.”

Younus — who missed the infamous 2010 tour remembered for the damning spot-fixing scandal — hopes that players such as Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, who started their careers on that tour, can raise their game.

“Azhar started his Test career there while Asad also debuted in the ODIs,” said Younus. “Both coped with pressure reasonably well and international cricket is all about adjustment.”

Fond personal memories of England

In five Tests in England, Younus has collected 470 runs at a healthy average of 52.22. The tally includes one hundred and three fifties but more than the ton, Younus cherishes his first Test innings of 58 at Lord’s the most. It came in a losing cause but was against a bowling attack boasting the likes of Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick in 2001.

“I highly rate my first innings in that Lord’s Test against a strong pace attack, since it gave me confidence and recognition from English critics,” said Younus. “It might have been a small contribution but I consider it important since I was very young and it was my first exposure to English cricket.”

Younus also shared a record 363 run stand — an innings of 173 — with Mohammad Yousuf at Headingley and he has fond memories of that too.

“My partnership with Yousuf in Leeds was very special despite us losing that game from a very strong position,” he said. “I always remember that innings fondly.”

Not thinking about 10,000 runs

England captain Alastair Cook recently joined the elite club of players to have scored 10,000 runs but Pakistan’s most prolific Test player, with 9,116 runs to his name, is not looking towards that milestone yet.

Instead, he is taking each day as it comes. “I am not thinking about 10,000 runs. I want to stay committed and dedicated and if that can continue, who knows how long I can end up playing for.”

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