At the Home of Cricket in July, 2006, a visiting Pakistan dug themselves into a pit at 4-68, chasing 328 to avoid follow on. The onus, once again, fell on Mohammad Yousuf (nee Yousuf Yohanna) – already in at number 4 – to weather the storm.
For 9 years, since his debut in 1997, the cricketing world had witnessed art in motion through Yousuf. Each delivery bowled was welcomed with his upright stance, completely perusing its nature. Always seeming to have an extra moment before lowering his high and menacing back-lift, he’d lean towards the ball precisely as prescribed to elegantly reveal his well-thought-out stroke. In them, the cleanness of strike evident, with technical proficiency only reminiscent in great batsmen of yore. It’s what made every part of each inning seem fresh, irrespective of their stage.
Had his footwork not been reluctant early in his innings, or had Yousuf’s concentration not momentarily evade him (leading to erratic shot-making) soon after reaching scoring landmarks, one could watch him bat for all five days of a Test. That day at Lord’s, neither folly invaded him. From 4-68, Pakistan were guided to 445, mere 83 shy of England’s total, with Yousuf recording 202 to be the last man to fall. The Home of Cricket saw a performance worthy of its illustrious history.
His arrival certainly helped transition from the dependable presence of Salim Malik and Ejaz Ahmed and re-establish Pakistan’s middle-order along with Younis Khan and Inzamam ul-Haq. In 2006 itself, he’d be crowned the year’s best batsman. Enticement towards banned leagues (ICL, 2008) and allegations of catalyzing infighting (vs. Australia, 2010) would scar his career and even court short-term bans. Yousuf even retaliated the second of those bans by announcing his retirement, before being requested out of it. Two unsuccessful ODI World Cups would additionally deny Yousuf lasting recognition. But having played in times where the nature of cricket changed (for better or for worse), Mohammad Yousuf is one who helped define his generation of batsmen. That remains undoubted.