Mohammad Yousuf formerly Yousuf Youhana, born 27 August 1974) is a Pakistani right-handed batsman. Prior to his conversion to Islam in 2005, Yousuf was one of only a few Christians to play for the Pakistan cricket team. Yousuf was effectively banned from playing international cricket for Pakistan, for an indefinite period by the Pakistan Cricket Board on 10 March 2010, following an inquiry into the team’s defeat during the tour of Australia. An official statement was released by the Pakistan Cricket Board, saying that he would not be selected again on the grounds of inciting infighting within the team.On 29 March 2010, Yousuf announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket, a direct reaction to the indefinite ban handed out to him by PCB. However following Pakistan’s disastrous first Test against England in July/August 2010, PCB decided to ask Yousuf to come out of retirement
Yousuf was born in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan to a family who had converted from a Hindu low caste Balmiki to Christianity. His father Youhana Maseeh worked at the railway station, the family lived in the nearby Railway Colony. As a boy, he couldn’t afford a bat and so swatted his brother’s taped tennis ball offerings with wooden planks of various dimensions on surfaces masquerading as roads. As a 12-year-old, he was spotted by the Golden Gymkhana, though even then only circumstances dictated his ambitions and never thought of playing cricket, to make a living. He joined Lahore’s Forman Christian College and continued playing until suddenly giving up in early 1994. For a time he tried his luck driving rickshaws in Bahawalpur.Yousuf, hailing from poor background, was plucked from the obscurity of a tailor‘s shop in the slums of the eastern city of Lahore to play a local match in the 1990s. His well-crafted shots attracted attention and he rose through the ranks to become one of Pakistan’s best batsman. He was set to work at a tailor’s when he was pulled back by a local club was short of players. They called him to make up numbers and made a hundred which led to a season in the Bradford Cricket League, with Bowling Old Lane, and a path back into the game.
Conversion to Islam
Until his conversion to Islam in 2005, Yousuf was the fourth Christian (and fifth non-Muslim overall) to play for the Pakistan cricket team, following in the footsteps of Wallis Mathias, Antao D’Souza and the Anglo-Pakistani Duncan Sharpe. He also has the distinction of being the first and so far only non-Muslim to captain the country, leading the team in the 2004–05 tour of Australia where he scored a century in the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He converted to Islam after attending regular preaching sessions of the Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan’s largest non-political religious grouping, whose preachers include Yousuf’s former team-mate Saeed Anwar and his brother.
His wife Tania converted along with him and adopted the Islamic name Fatima. However, the news was kept private for three years due to family reasons, before his announcement of their conversion publicly in September 2005. “I don’t want to give Yousuf my name after what he has done”, his mother was quoted as saying by the Daily Times newspaper. “We came to know about his decision when he offered Friday prayers at a local mosque. It was a shock”, his mother was reported as saying. However, Yousuf told the BBC that “I cannot tell you what a great feeling it is.” As part of his conversion, Yousuf officially changed his name from Yousuf Youhana to Mohammad Yousuf. Former Pakistan cricketer and sports commentator Rameez Raja, who himself is Muslim, acknowledged the significance of Yousuf’s new faith: “Religion has played an integral part in his growth not just as a cricketer but as a person.”
He made his Test debut against South Africa at Durban and One Day International debut against Zimbabwe at Harare. He has scored over 9,000 One Day International runs at an average above 40 (2nd highest batting average among Pakistani batsmen after Zaheer Abbas) and over 7,000 Test runs at an average above 50 (highest batting average amongst all Pakistani batsmen) with 24 Test centuries. He has the record of scoring the most runs without being dismissed in the One Day International match, with a total of 405 runs against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe in 2002–2003. He has also scored a 23-ball fifty and a 68-ball hundred in One Day International. In Test match, he has scored a 27-ball fifty, which is 3rd fastest by any player. He was the top scorer during the successive years of 2002 and 2003 in the world in One Day International match. In 2004, he scored 111 runs against the Australians in the Boxing Day Test. In December 2005, he scored 223 runs against England at Lahore, also earning him the man of the match award. Seven months later in July 2006, when Pakistan toured England, he scored 202 runs and 48 in the first Test, again earning himself the man of the match award. He followed up with 192 in the third Test at Headingley and 128 in the final Test at The Oval.
Yousuf was named CNN-IBN‘s Cricketer of the Year for 2006, ahead of the likes of Australian captain Ricky Ponting, West Indies Brian Lara, Australian spinner Shane Warne, South Africa’s bowling spearhead Makhaya Ntini and Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan. He was selected as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in the 2007 edition. Yousuf became the fourth recipient of the ICC ‘Test Cricketer of the Year’ award for 2007, he scored 944 runs at an average of 94.40 including seven centuries and two fifties in just 10 innings and that was enough to be awarded the honour ahead of English batsman Kevin Pietersen and Australian batsman Ricky Ponting.
A year that started on a promising note, Yousuf carried it forward to break two world records both held earlier by former West Indian batsman Viv Richards. The 32-year-old, Pakistani batsman achieved an unparalleled 1788 runs in just 10 Test matches with the help of twelve centuries which became his second world record. Yousuf is known for his ability to score runs at exceptional rate through his great technique and composed strokeplay. Although capable of hitting the ball hard, Yousuf is quick between the wickets, although he is prone to being run out.Yousuf is a skilful infielder, with a report prepared by Cricinfo in late 2005 showing that since the 1999 Cricket World Cup, he had effected the seventh highest number of run-outs in ODI cricket of any fieldsman. He is also distinguished by his characteristic celebration after hitting one hundred runs for his country, where he prostrates in thankfulness to Allah in the direction of Mecca. He has observed this act (known as the Sajdah) since his conversion to Islam.
In 2007, after initially signing a contract to join the Indian Cricket League, Yousuf later refused due to pressure from the Pakistan Cricket Board as he would later face a ban by the board. In return the PCB promised to get him into the Indian premier league, however, no team bid for him as he faced litigation from the ICL.In 2008, he once again threatened to join the ICL after the PCB dropped him from their squad. A PCB official was quoted as saying, “We have banned all our cricketers who joined the ICL and if Yousuf also plays for the unauthorised league then he will have to face the same punishment. Yousuf is still our best Test batsman and has a future with the Pakistan team, but not if he joins the ICL.” Yousuf decided to join the ICL again to play mid-way though the second season. The Pakistan Cricket Board reacted to the news by banning him from the national team. Yousaf’s chances to return to Pakistani cricket improved on 2 February 2009 when a Pakistani court suspended the ban on ICL players.
Pakistan Cricket Board recalled batsman Mohammad Yousuf to the squad for their July 2009 Test series in Sri Lanka. Yousuf ended his association with the unsanctioned Indian Cricket League (ICL) in early May, in the hope of earning a recall for his country. His decision to join the ICL was made because of differences with former captain Shoaib Malik, who has since been replaced by Younus Khan. In July 2009, on his first match after returning to Test Cricket since 2007, Yousuf scored a century to announce his return to cricket. Yousuf informed the Pakistan Cricket Board that he would not be taking part in the Champions Trophy 2008 because it would coincide with the holy month of Ramadan.
He along with another former Indian Cricket League player Abdul Razzaq were awarded ‘A’ category mid-term central contracts by Pakistan Cricket Board after they left Indian Cricket League. A little over one year after being welcomed back by the PCB, Yousuf was made captain of the Test team for the tour of New Zealand after Younus Khan was allowed to take a break. The Pakistan Cricket Board, on 10 March 2010, banned Yousuf and former captain, Younis Khan from playing for the national team indefinitely and imposed one-year bans on Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. Despite receiving the ban Yousuf said that the series against South Africa in late 2010 could be a possibility. Pakistan then toured England in July 2010 and after losing the first test by 354 runs due to a weak batting line-up, the second innings total of 80 being the lowest total by Pakistan against England. Yousuf announced his return to International Cricket and was placed on the squad. He then required a visa which was granted but there was a concern that Yousuf could not come to England in time for that tour. In January 2012 it was announced that Yousuf was holding talks with Leicestershire over becoming their overseas player for 2012. Talks broke down over Yousuf wanting to take time off for Ramadam.
Retirement and subsequent return (2010)
On 29 March 2010, Yousuf announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket, just days after the Pakistan Cricket Board imposed an indefinite ban on him. “I received a letter from the PCB that my staying in the team is harmful for the team, so I announce my retirement from international cricket”, he said at a press conference in Karachi. On 27 March, Yousuf said that he had decided to retire from international cricket. “Yes, I have decided to retire as Pakistan player and my decision is not an emotional one”, Yousuf told press agency AFP, “It’s of no use playing if my playing is harmful to the team”. He was handed over an indefinite ban by the Pakistan Cricket Board for his disciplinary problems on Pakistan’s tour of Australia 2009–2010.
On 1 August 2010, after Pakistan lost the first Test match against England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Yousuf was called back in the squad for the rest of the series. He decided not to play the second Test because of tiredness. Shortly after the completion of the second test, Pakistani captain Salman Butt announced that he expected Yousuf to return for the third test. The selectors decided to play Yousuf in a tour match against Worcestershire just before the third Test so that his form and fitness could be checked. Yousuf’s form check was positive, because on a day inflicted by rain he managed to score 40*. Yousuf then scored 56 against England in the third Test before being caught and bowled by Graeme Swann; in the process Yousuf became Swann’s 100 casualty in Test cricket;the day saw a much improved performance by Pakistan as they were eventually bowled out for 308.
In the same tour of England that summer, he participated in the Twenty20 series as well. Despite being considered an “old boys cricketer” and having participated in only a sole T20I in 2006 and considered one who does not slog as often (notable by the low number of sixes he has scored), Yousuf participated and scored 26 of 21 deliveries. His return continued well when he scored 46 in the second ODI against England. He consistently scored during the five-match England series as Pakistan lost 3–2. Yousuf was subsequently selected to play for Pakistan in all three formats against South Africa in October 2010; he was considered as an option for becoming captain but the captaincy was given Misbah-ul-Haq Yousuf’s batting partner Younis Khan; however still was not selected.
Mohammad Yousuf captained his domestic team, the Lahore Lions, to victory in the 2010–11 Faysal Bank Twenty-20 Cup; the team defeated the Karachi Dolphins in the final. That was also the first time in five years that the trophy had gone to someone besides the Sialkot Stallions. Despite his poor fielding skills, Yousuf was given the award of fielder of the series. He did however injure his hamstring in training for the series against South Africa in October 2010. Chief Selector Mohsin Khan elected to withdraw Yousuf from the ODI and T20I squads but said that he should be ready to play in the Test match series. Yousuf’s replacement in the limited-overs squad was Younus Khan, who had successfully reconciled with the Pakistan Cricket Board. He managed to regain his fitness and participated in the two-match Test series against South Africa. Also, he managed to regain his fitness quickly enough to participate in the final ODI of the five-match series. Yousuf wore a shirt which had his name written on in ink, which was against regulations.
The match-referee called him and Yousuf stated that because he came for the test series he did not bring coloured clothing because he did not think that he would play. Subsequently the ICC cleared him of any wrongdoing. Minutes before the toss in the first Test match, Yousuf picked up a groin injury. The injury took two weeks to heal and subsequently Yousuf missed the two-match Test series. Amid his recent spate of injuries, former Pakistan captain Moin Khan suggested that Yousuf should retire from ODIs and T20s and focus on Tests only due to age and consistent injuries..