ADELAIDE - Pakistan batsman Younus Khan has said the side's fighting win against South Africa in Auckland turned their fortunes around and transformed the team into believing they could qualify for the knockouts. Pakistan struggled in the beginning of the tournament and followed the win against South Africa with a seven-wicket victory against Ireland to book a quarter-final berth.
"Before that game nobody was thinking about us qualifying for the finals, but after that game we were everywhere," Younus told ESPNcricinfo in an interview. "Now everyone knows this is a team that, if they play according to their plans on the day, maybe they will do well. Amazing things can happen and you learn a lot from these situations."
Younus spoke of the mindset going into that match. "There was a chance to play against South Africa and I didn't make a lot of runs but that 30-odd innings and the partnership with Sarfraz Ahmed was quite nice. Then the way we bowled, we all knew this was the game, we have to perform in this game. After batting we did not have many runs on the board but we knew that with the conditions here if you pitch it in the right areas you may be lucky, get some wickets and suddenly the bowlers were bowling very well that innings and everybody was motivated. Sometimes things happen like that, in the first over when Irfan got de Kock out, the momentum shifted to us and we grabbed that opportunity."
Younus spoke fondly of his captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, and the composure with which he carries himself. Younis also stated that it is Misbah's hunger to bat for long periods that rescues the team when they are in trouble.
"He is very calm. I think he's like Steve Waugh," Younis said. "When you watched him play he was very quiet but he's tough. He had a tough body, tough emotions. So Misbah is like Steve Waugh, he's calm, he's cool, but inside he's very strong. I've spent a lot of time with him and he's strong. Sometimes he looks like he's not strong but inside he's very strong and he wants to play for his country, his family, himself. Whenever the team is under pressure he has stood there and performed. The other thing is the hunger he shows with his batting all the time. Whenever you watch Misbah he wants to go there and play 100, 150 balls. He loves his batting, he doesn't show he's bored with batting. So that's why whenever Pakistan's batting is under pressure Misbah is there. That's why he performed well and that's why these things make him different to other captains."
Even though Younus, 37, had said a month before the World Cup that he would "play as long as I'm fit and hungry," Misbah, 40, had made it clear that he would quit ODIs after the World Cup, which could make the knockout against Australia his last ODI. Younus was confident that there were enough youngsters in the team to step up once the duo, and even Shahid Afridi, would leave the game.
"At the moment we have some of the best youngsters in the team," Younis said. "The way Ahmed Shazad is playing, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq is there as well. When Shahid Afridi is no longer in the team, Yasir Shah is there. When we're gone, our youngsters will be there and they will play even better than us."