'Bad influence' Yousuf quits Pakistan team

The batting great feels insulted after being banned by the board and announces retirement for second time in his career.

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Mohammad Yousuf, branded by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as being a "harmful" influence, announced his international retirement yesterday. Yousuf, one of the batting greats and world record holder for most runs in a calendar year, was banned indefinitely earlier this month, along with another former captain, Younus Khan, following a tour of Australia, where Pakistan lost every game.

The elegant middle-order batsman - third-highest run-scorer for Pakistan in Test cricket behind Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq - later received a letter from the PCB saying he was being banned for his "attitude", "infighting" and being a "bad influence" on the team. Those accusations have, according Yousuf, forced him to make the decision. "I received a letter from the PCB that my staying in the team is harmful," said an emotional Yousuf at a press conference in Karachi yesterday. "So I announce my retirement from international cricket. I always played for my country and if my playing is harmful for the team then I don't want to play. "It's of no use playing after such an insult, which is unacceptable. I thank the fans around the world, all the senior players and family members for supporting me throughout my 12-year career. If I get time, I would love to play first-class cricket and private leagues. This is not an emotional decision. I consulted my family, friends and elders before taking it."

Starting his career with just six runs in two innings against South Africa in 1998, Yousuf gradually emerged as one of the leading batsmen of this generation, anchoring a shaky Pakistan middle-order for most of the past decade. His lazy elegance and appetite for big scores produced 7,431 runs from 88 Tests at an impressive average of 53.07, which is the best for any Pakistan batsman. He scored 24 Test centuries and played some memorable innings such as the 115 against the West Indies (in Barbados, 2000) and a 111 in the Boxing Day Test of 2004 in Melbourne.

In a six-year period, starting from 2001, Yousuf emerged as the world's most prolific batsman, averaging more than 66. During that golden run, he scored 18 centuries in 46 Test matches, nine of which astonishingly came in a record-breaking 2006. That same year, he scored 1,788 runs from 11 matches, breaking Viv Richards's (1,710 in 1976) record for most runs in a calendar year. A year later, Yousuf announced his retirement after being ignored for the first World Twenty20 in South Africa. He joined a Pakistan exodus to the unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL), but reneged on his contract at the persuasion of the PCB.

Yousuf, however, returned to the ICL in 2008 after publicly accusing Shoaib Malik, the then Pakistan captain, of destroying his career. He was back playing international cricket after Malik was deposed, but the animosity between the two senior pros came to the fore once more when they were involved in another public spat which lead to the PCB banning Yousuf, the Pakistan captain in Australia, indefinitely.

Malik was suspended for a year, along with Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, while Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers - Kamran and Umar - were fined and placed on probation for six months. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae