Younis Khan could make Twenty20 comeback

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A day after coming back into the national side, former Pakistan captain Younis Khan has hinted at a possible return to the Twenty20 format he retired from, over a year ago.

After his meeting with PCB chairman Ijaz Butt on Wednesday, the board cleared Younis’ selection for Pakistan and he was immediately named in the squad for the limited-overs games against South Africa in the UAE. The chief selector Mohsin Khan couldn’t clarify whether Younis would play in the two Twenty20s, but said that his selection would be left to the tour selection committee. Speaking to reporters from the training camp at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Younis said simply that he was available wherever needed.

“I am not that sort of a player who says I should be in Test matches or I should be in one-dayers or in Twenty20s,” Younis said. “If my fitness is up there and Pakistan needs me, whether it’s T20, T10, 50-50 or Tests, I am always available for Pakistan.”

Younis led Pakistan to a memorable World Twenty20 triumph in England in 2009, but retired from the format immediately after, saying it was time for younger men to take over. Since then he featured only in the ODI and Test set-up, though he has continued playing Twenty20s in domestic competitions in Pakistan and abroad. Though available, Younis’ selection is not guaranteed; he averages just over 25 from 22 Twenty20 matches with a relatively unspectacular strike-rate of 124.85. But at the time he retired, Younis seemed to be coming to terms with his role in the format, finishing among his side’s top-scorers with 172 runs in the World Twenty20.

Younis has been kept out of the national set-up since January, when he played his last ODI in Perth and he hasn’t featured in a Test since July last year; the result of a punishment handed out to him for disciplinary reasons after the tour of Australia and a protracted personality and legal clash with Butt and the board. At the age of 32, however, Younis was keen to move on rather than dwell on what has happened. “I talked to the chairman yesterday and we forgot whatever happened in the past. I didn’t want to end my cricket like that. If I say sorry it’s not a big deal. I can’t fight with the chairman, I can’t fight with the board, as whatever I am is because of them. As far as discipline is concerned I have never been fined and everyone knows me well.”

Since Younis hasn’t played at the top level for so long, there will inevitably be questions about his form and the logic of selecting him for limited-overs cricket, where over the course of a ten-year career he hasn’t hit the heights he has in the five-day format. He averages just over 32 in 202 ODIs, though that has risen to nearly 35 in the last three years when he has been one of his side’s most senior players. He scored only 67 runs, though, when recalled for the five-match ODI series against Australia.

“I played a county season for Surrey, I played T20s and if a player has eight or nine years experience, he often just needs one click,” Younis said. “If luck favors me and I play one good innings everything will be back on track. When I was recalled for Australia, I went there after playing just one domestic match, at least now I have played county cricket, so I am prepared mentally.”

Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, welcomed Younis’ return to the team. “It’s very good that Younis Khan is back. He’s been a great servant for the last 12-14 years, he has served Pakistan as a captain, as a player, as a senior member he has done wonders. He is a seasoned player, he is still fit, fitter than most of them actually, and always gives 100%.”

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