During the Super Six stage match of 1999 World Cup in England between South Africa and Australia, Herchelle Gibbs of South Africa missed out a sitter catch of Australia’s captain Steve Waugh, who went on to make an unbeaten match-winning century.
It was a must-win match for Australia to qualify for the semi-finals while South Africa were already into the final four.
The moment Steve Waugh was relieved after watching the easiest of catch going down by Gibbs, he said to him boy, and you have dropped the World Cup for your country.
Australia went on to beat South Africa in the Super Six match and in the Semi-final as well. Waugh was right. Had Gibbs not dropped the catch, Australia was out of the competition and South Africa was the ultimate favorite to lift the trophy.
As they say, Catches win matches and if you miss dolly catches in crunch matches, then fortune seldom gives you a second chance to prevail.
Similar thing was happened with the captain of Pakistan Cricket team, Younus Khan, when he dropped a simple catch of Grant Elliot, who was named man of the match at the end of a crucial Semi-final of ICC Champions Trophy 2009 in South Africa on Oct. 3.
One phrase suits Younus Khan more than anyone else at the moment and that is ‘Hero becomes Zero.'
Only 3 and a half months ago, he led his side to lift the T20 world Championship in England out of nowhere. They were down and out completely and no one was giving them even the slightest of chances to make it into semi finals.
The team had internal rifts too according to some reliable sources. After being defeated in the first couple of warm-up games and then to England in their first tournament game, along with internal politics was not an ideal thing to go further deep into the competition.
But the way, Younus led his side and made some harsh and bold decisions at the right time were enough to make Pakistan T20 Champions.
Luck was at his side too. Every strategy that he made was paying off. Promotion of Shahid Afridi at the top order, bringing in a rookie Shahzeib Hassan instead of experienced Salman Butt.
Giving the new ball to youngster Muhammad Aamer and playing him ahead of T20 specialist Sohail Tanvir, and making a risky strategy in the final game of getting Dilshan out with a bouncer who was devastating through out the championship and that too with fine-leg up where most of his runs came, are a few instances of brilliance as a leader by Younus Khan.
He was lucky as well because he had the likes of Gul, Ajmal and Afridi as dangerous T20 bowlers and Afridi fired at right time with the bat for him. His own batting form was not bad at all.
The decision of retirement from T20 with honor gave him more respect as he was criticized by former players for not being a T20 material before the start of the tournament and he proved everyone wrong.
All in all, Younus had a dream T20 championship where everything he seemed to have touched turned into gold. But the glory is not forever.
Problems on and off the field started again for Younus Khan in Sri Lanka where Pakistan succumbed 2-0 to the hosts in Tests and 3-2 in One day series after they were 3 down at one stage.
The two major scores which he scored during the one day series came in the fourth and fifth matches when the series was lost already. Not good enough from a captain.
Apart from specialist opener selection and perhaps Abdul Razzaq’s, Pakistan named the strongest possible squad for their Champions Trophy. They, unlike most of the other teams, had no major injury worries during the tournament.
Younus himself got injured during the warm up match against Sri Lanka and missed the match against second-string West Indies side. He played with an injured finger against India.
It was a brave effort and I acknowledge his motivation to lead the side in such a crunch match but I have some issues with this decision too.
First of all, the pre-tournament statements from captain, vice captain and a senior bowler suggested that we were not going to play in the Champions Trophy but only a one-off game against India.
Fine, I know the match against India was very important but this does not mean that you are not competing against any other team. The prime focus of players was a win against India, not the Champions Trophy.
It was the captain, who started it so what do you expect from rest of the players? Younus took pain killers, bandaged his finger as much as he could and played to win against India so that he could be remembered for being the captain who defeated India as he himself said this in his interview.
Does this mean that he did not want to give the credit of a victory against India to someone else? Is it selfishness or courage?
Well, I must not take away the credit from him for running out Gautam Gambhir by a direct throw and turning the match in Pakistan’s favor when Gambhir was taking the game away from them.
His captaincy was exceptional too. But it does not end there. As suggested from his interview, he wanted to lead the winning side even with an injured finger to set an example as players tend to make excuses to play whenever they have any slightest of injuries.
Is setting an example more important or winning the matches for your country? An injured player is only a burden on any team.
Younus was advised six weeks rest from any kind of cricket. He got away with his decision to play against India as they won it, solely because of a mammoth partnership between Malik and Yousuf.
Then they had to play a dead rubber against Australia as they were already into the semi-finals. He could’ve missed the match easily to give a chance to any youngster like Fawad Alam or Imran Nazir.
But may be he was carried way. He wanted to win the championship with a broken finger for the first time in history. Or did he?
Or may be he was not prepared to be targeted by violent Indian media as only Pakistan’s victory would have assured India a place in the semi-final and had he missed out that match, he was the one to face the fire from every side to have missed the match deliberately.
So he played. 18 from 49 balls after a goodish start by Kamran Akmal were utterly miserable. He pushed down the run rate, which never got up again.
He got away again as Pakistani bowlers nearly pulled off an incredible victory. Nobody was criticized as they lost with honor. Maybe just the batting was criticized, but not that much.
Younus got away with his ambition twice, which could have led him to give it another shot to play the big one against New Zealand. Maybe he was not confident of Afridi’s captaincy or may be he wanted to set the glory for himself.
Whatever the case is, Younis Khan, a triumphant captain blew his own trumpet to lose a knock out match for his country. Sure, luck was not in his favor with some bad umpiring but that’s how cricket is and you have to live with it.
He was not fit to play a big match like that. To start off the day, he again failed to make a decent score for himself. Towards the end, when 60 odd runs were required from same number of deliveries with last recognized batsman at the crease, he missed the simplest of all catches to gift Kiwi’s a place in the mega final.
The way he was catching a knee-high ball with fingers facing the sky rather than allowing the ball coming into his palm with fingers down clearly suggests that he was trying to protect his injured finger or may be his injury was back in his mind which prompted him to change the basic catching technique.
Once Elliot got that chance, he never looked back and won the game easily for his side which was looking a close thing at one stage.
Younus not only dropped an easy catch, but also dropped the Champions trophy for Pakistan by virtue of being over-ambitious. I am sure he’ll regret his decision of playing with an injury and will never forget it, nor will any Pakistani.