Mental well-being just as important as playing technique: Younis Khan

Faizan Lakhani

Pakistan cricket team’s batting coach and former captain Younis Khan believes that the players’ mental well-being is of pivotal importance to get the best performances.

Talking to media via video conference, Khan, Pakistan’s most successful Test batsman, said that a player struggling in his personal life and harbouring negative thoughts is at a greater risk at not being able to concentrate on his performance.

He recalled how the late Bob Woolmer used to deal with players by observing their personal thoughts, habits and everything else off the field.

“I have learnt this from Bob Woolmer on how to deal with different players. We used to share our personal life stories with him and he used to guide us. It is important for players to be focused on cricket and keep a balance between personal and professional lives. Along with players’ technique, it is also important that your life is also balanced,” the 42-year-old batting maestro said.

“At the end of the day, we all are human beings, and our personal thoughts are always important and it stays in the back of our mind. It does affect your performance and in such times support staff roles are very important."

Younis highlighted how Cricket Australia deals with players' psychology and that makes Australians one of the best sides in the world.

He said that at the highest level it is not always easy to tweak techniques, adding that the difference maker is the mental resilience.

“I am not saying that we don’t work on skills, we surely do. But, along with skills, it is important that we work to make players free of all the negative thoughts,” he said.

“I went through some family tragedies while I was playing for Pakistan but my mentors, from family and cricket, helped me stay strong and it went well."

Younis further said that the team and players’ pre-match thoughts have an important impact on performances on the match day, adding that instilling positive thoughts in players' minds helps their cause.

He also chalked out his strategy of working on batsmen, stating that he’s trying to make them mentally strong and doing something which can produce long lasting results.

“You may not see an overnight result but there can be some positive outcome of what I’ve been doing with players,” said Younis, who scored 10,099 runs in 118 Tests.

“I am trying to make players realise their responsibility and own the team, which is more important. I believe that it is my responsibility to give equal time to all the players, be it Babar Azam or a younger player like Haider Ali,” he said.

Talking about Azam, Younis said that the limited-over skipper has another level to hit to join the true elites of the game.

He, however, suggested that Azam or any other player shouldn’t be compared with any other cricketer of past or present as this can only put added pressure on the player.

“Everyone talks about Babar Azam and everyone expects him to play a role. We try to keep him calm and let him play his own game,” he said.

He also mentioned that Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq can play the same role that he and Misbah used to play when playing for Pakistan.

Younis said that the batting unit’s inability to score big runs in the second intra-squad match wasn’t something to worry about as scenario was different from what it should be and players weaknesses are usually exposed against members of the same team.

“We’ll be a different team when we take the field against England,” he said.

He also revealed that team management is also working to improve batting skills of tail-enders as it is important to have lower order batsmen survive for longer in Test matches.

He said Pakistan was not focusing on the word “fighting” against England and instead, the team is focused on word “winning” against the hosts.

“We are not here to give tough time or just to fight, we are here to win. We are clear about it. We are not talking about fighting, we are talking about winning. We want to play good cricket,” he concluded.

Mental well-being just as important as playing technique: Younis Khan