Saleem Yousaf – The Bravest Pakistani Wicket Keeper
Character and courage’ were the two words that epitomized Saleem Yousuf’s international cricket career for Pakistan. He was surely one of the bravest and gutsiest cricketers to have played for the country, carrying on dauntlessly even after suffering one injury after another. After he had played in his first Test match for Pakistan, back in 1981-82 against Sri Lanka at Karachi
He had two teeth knocked out while standing up to the leg-spin of Javed Miandad in his first one-day international against the same opposition at the same venue two days later. He didn’t play his next Test match until four years later, again against Sri Lanka at home in 1985-86.
Saleem Yousaf was born in Karachi on December 7, 1959. He made his first-class debut for Sind as a 19-year-old in the 1978–79 season. He was inducted into the Pakistan Test team in 1981–82 when regular wicketkeeper Wasim Bari, along with several other senior players, refused to be in the side under the captaincy of the then 24-year-old Javed Miandad.
Saleem Yousaf made seven dismissals in the maiden Test match, composed of catches and two stampings. Although he returned to play in the ODI series, another debutant, Ashraf Ali, took over wicket-keeping duties for the remaining two Test matches.
Wasim Bari was back for the 1981–82 tour of Australia, keeping his place in all of Pakistan’s next 23 Tests when he announced his retirement in 1983–84. The wicketkeeper’s job was shuttled between Anil Dalpat and Ashraf Ali. Saleem Yousuf took over from Ashraf in the home series against Sri Lanka in 1985–86. Although he was taken on the tour of Sri Lanka later in the same season!
Zulqarnain was preferred for the three test matches. Saleem, however, then played regularly for Pakistan in 13 consecutive Tests in 1986–87 and 1987, against the West Indies at home and on tour in India and England. He might not have resumed his Test career, though, if Zulqarnain and Anil Dalpat had both not reported illness before the start of the rubber against the West Indies.
Injury-hit again, and in the 1987 World Cup semifinal against Australia at Lahore, he took a nasty blow on the face while keeping wicket to a leg break and googly specialist Abdul Qadir. A few weeks later, he broke his left thumb while playing a domestic limited-over’s match. He was also part of the Pakistan team that beat India in India first time at Bangluru in 1986.
Ashraf Ali took the gloves in all three home Tests against England in 1987–88. Saleem, however, returned to tour the West Indies with Pakistan later in the season and went on to play in 16 of the country’s next 19 Test matches. He was missing from three of the four home tests against India in 1989–90. Nadeem Abbasi was playing instead of him after sustaining yet another injury in the first Test match in Karachi.
Injury problems caused him to be taken off the team after playing in the first Test of the 1990–91 home series against the West Indies. Then Moin Khan took over, and Saleem Yousaf never played a Test match again. Saleem Yousaf played in 32 Test matches for Pakistan. In these, he scored 1,055 runs at an average of 27.05, with five half-centuries to his credit. As wicketkeeper, he made 104 dismissals, made up of 91 catches and 13 stampings.
In 86 one-day internationals from 1981–82 to 1990–91, he contributed 768 runs with an average of 17.86 with four fifties and 103 dismissals (81 caught, 22 stumped). In all first-class cricket, from 1978-79 to 1996-97, Saleem Yousaf played 119 matches, scoring 4,578 runs at an average of 28.43, the highest 145*, 6 100s, 20 fifties, 297 catches, 41 stumpings (total 338), and one wicket for 20 runs as an occasional slow-medium bowler with a best of 1-16.
He faced 152 balls in just over three hours and hit 14 boundaries. Moreover, Saleem Yousaf was batting at number three when he scored his highest first-class score of 145 not out for Allied Bank against Rawalpindi in 1982–83.
On quite a few occasions, his natural aggressive instincts prompted his captains to use him as an opening batsman. His highest in a one-day international came as an opener when he scored 62 off 90 balls with three fours and a six against India in the 1989–90 Austral-Asia Cup competition in Sharjah.
His best wicket-keeping in an innings of a first-class match was six dismissals (three caught, three stumped) for Allied Bank against HBFC at Multan in 1984–85. Moreover, he played for Sind (1978–79), Karachi (1978–79 to 1991–92), the Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan (IDBP) (1979–80 to 1981–82), Allied Bank (1982–83 to 1984–85), and Pakistan Customs (1996–97).
His major tours with the Pakistan team were to England in 1982 and 1987, Sri Lanka in 1985-86, India in 1986-87, the West Indies in 1987-88, Australia in 1988-89 and 1989-90, and New Zealand in 1988-89. Saleem toured Sharjah as a Pakistan player five times: in 1985–86, 1986–87, 1988–89, 1989–90, and 1990–91.
In addition, he also went to Australia in 1986–87, India in 1989–90, and Bangladesh in 1988–89. In 1981, he had gone to England with the Pakistan Under-25s side. Also, in 1990, he played for Pakistan in the North America Cup contest in New York, USA.
In 1995–96, he represented Pakistan’s Masters in the Masters Cup tournament in Sharjah. His Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) beneficiary match was played in Sharjah in April 1994, during the Austral-Asia Cup contest.
On the tours of Australia and New Zealand, India, Singapore, and Sharjah, all in 1995–96. Further, he was an assistant coach and assistant manager to Intikhab Alam. He also served as a national selector on three occasions, from 2002–03 to 2003–04.