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The perfect weirdness of Mohammad Yousuf’s ODI bowling career

Mohammad Yousuf ODI bowling
Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner 3 minute read

For some, it was Xbox. For others, girls and booze. But for a certain strain of cricket nerd, and quite possibly a large proportion of you reading this right now, it was Statsguru.

That was what consumed your leisure time, your evenings and summers. Pick a format, check some filters, and let your heart run free. And if it didn’t exactly make life worth living, it did at least eat up the hours and days until you could leave home, enter the real world and properly begin to start putting all that query tool curiosity to good use.

There’s no end of what you might discover, and no knowing how you might discover it. Maybe you’re trying to compare Virat Kohli and Michael Bevan and *BAM* Ryan ten Doeschate’s ODI average of 67 hits you like a freight train. Or maybe it’s Test bowling strike rates that send you down a Sydney Barnes rabbit hole.

Or, just possibly, when James Vince nicks off Andrew Balbirnie just after the powerplay with his Ravi Boparas, catapulting his ODI bowling average, if only for a brief heady moment, to 4.00, you look to find where he ranks without qualification in the all-time list and there you see, out there on his own, Mohammad Yousuf: Batting average of 41, bowling average of 1, one of the great all-rounders hiding in plain sight.

This revelation alone would be enough to keep you going for a while. But it’s only when you delve deeper into the granular detail of the great man’s career with ball in hand that the bizarre beauty truly reveals itself. To be fair, that doesn’t take long; there’s only so much poring you can do over a sum total of a third of an over. But while it’s odd to find a cricketer with an average so low, it’s stranger still to have a player with a strike-rate of 2.00 whose bowling record you’d describe as mixed.

That’s the only word for it though, because Yousuf, wonderfully, spread his two balls across two games, two names, three years, and the entire gamut of cricketing emotion. First, in the 2004 Champions Trophy semi-final, he was called onto bowl his ‘medium’ pace with West Indies needing one to win, milked for a single first ball, and banished from the attack until the next global tournament came along.

By the time of the 2007 World Cup, he was a bowler transformed. On this occasion, Zimbabwe needed 94 off the last over with one wicket in hand – an ask you would justifiably term ‘steep’ – but Yousuf snuffed out any hope, enticing Chris Mpofu (ODI batting average: 2.85) to spoon one up to cover, giving Inzamam-ul-Haq his last career catch. Inzi catches it and laughs. Yousuf has the surprised smile of a man who’s thrown a tea bag into a mug first time from across the kitchen. Pakistan are out of the World Cup, but for a second the weight is lifted.

He never bowled again in international cricket. If you’re that close to perfection already, why would you need to?

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