Strauss keeps eye close to home
England were today doing their best to ignore the guessing game over Mohammad Yousuf’s late arrival for the second npower Test.
But neither Andrew Strauss nor his opposite number Salman Butt could rise above the uncertainty which hung over Edgbaston and will not go away until the teams are exchanged tomorrow morning.
Yousuf’s peerless record against England - the 35-year-old averages 70 in 12 Tests - suggests he may yet hold the key to Pakistan’s prospects of battling back into the four-match npower series they trail 1-0 after their hammering at Trent Bridge.
Yousuf lost the captaincy and was given an indefinite ban by the Pakistan Cricket Board for his part in an argumentative and disastrous tour of Australia last winter.
He subsequently retired from international cricket, has played only two domestic Twenty20s in the intervening months - the last on March 5 - but responded to an SOS to Lahore to fly out and shore up his country’s batting after their 354-run defeat in Nottingham.
Yousuf’s near 5,000-mile journey was then delayed until he arranged an appropriate visa - and although he was reported to have finally arrived in Birmingham by mid-afternoon today, there was no time for him to even have the benefit of an outdoor net before Pakistan assess his readiness to play.
There was the suspicion of a shrug when Strauss had to address the inevitable Yousuf questions - but the England captain wisely acknowledged too that his team can hardly underestimate someone who has been so prolific against them.
“It’s not a big deal, except to make sure we’ve got plans in place for him,” he said.
“It’s up to Pakistan to worry about whether he’s in a position to play in a Test.
“We know he’s a dangerous player and a very good Test cricketer. If he does play and he’s jet-lagged we hope we can make it difficult for him.
“We saw far too much of him last time (in 2006), because he had a great series.
“He’s a top-quality Test performer, but we’ve got plans we think will work against him.”
England are not spending unwarranted time second-guessing Pakistan’s selection plans.
“We’ve got no idea what happens in Pakistan’s dressing room and who gets on with whom or what decisions their selectors are likely to make,” added Strauss.
“We’ve just got to worry about ourselves - and leave the other stuff up to them.”
Butt will have a say in whether Yousuf is picked. But having backed his young batting line-up immediately after the first-Test defeat four days ago - hours before the PCB announced Yousuf’s call-up - he is in an unenviable position.
“It will be a management decision when we speak to him. It totally depends what condition he is in,” he said.
Yet Butt admits Pakistan will probably have to take Yousuf’s match fitness on trust.
“I am sure he must have picked up the bat somewhere in practice at least, because he also knows he is coming here to play in a Test match.
“We haven’t had a word with him for quite some time.
“By the time he lands, practice will be over - so there is no chance for him to practise.
“He has to tell me what sort of physical state he is in after this flight - because he has had to get the visa from a different city and then come back to his own and pack. It has been quite a lot of travelling for him.”
On his decision to come out of retirement, he said: “I do not have a clue about it, because I wasn’t involved.
“It doesn’t concern me. It has been done by other people, the board.
“I think it is for me to back what I have with me - and I definitely believe that these young people are here and have shown us what they can do.
“They are the people to look to in the future, and nobody is denying that.
“We also welcome an experienced person coming in. But it will depend what state he is in.”
Strauss has no such problems on his doorstep.
England’s biggest worry is the spectre of complacency - something Strauss is wary of, with some already predicting a 4-0 clean sweep against Pakistan which would be ideal preparation for the Ashes.
“That chat is very dangerous - and easy to slip into, just because we performed well in one Test,” he said.
“I’m concerned that everyone just assumes that we’re just going turn up and win this match.
“Even if we are two per cent starting to think in the back of our minds that this series may be easy, we’re going to get bitten.”