Is Yusuf Pathan the new rising star on the Indian cricket horizon? Is he the answer to the ODI squadÃ¢??s prayers for a quality utility cricketer?
Is Yusuf Pathan the new rising star on the Indian cricket horizon? Is he the answer to the ODI squad's prayers for a quality utility cricketer? On figures it would appear that Yusuf is over rated, that a lot is being said and hyped up about someone whose record on the face of it is pretty modest. And yet the 26-year-old strongly built ubiquitous player from Baroda is being hailed as the next best thing that could happen to Indian cricket. Is Pathan worthy of all this adulation and attention? Is he a winning candidate? I would like to think that the answer is yes to both these questions. And as to why I think this way I can only say that some cricketers go beyond facts, figures and statistics. The one thing that stands out in Pathan's favour is his confident, daredevil attitude. It is this that should take him far.
One saw that in his very first big match - the memorable Twenty20 World Cup final in Johannesburg last year. He was sent in first as a surprise tactic and understood his brief clearly evidence of this coming quickly when he hit Mohammad Asif out of the ground. Talk about an ideal temperament!
It was in the Indian Premier League that Pathan's image acquired a whole new dimension. His big hitting saw him acquire a strike rate of almost 180 over 16 matches – next only to Virender Sehwag among those who played over six matches - on his way to scoring 435 runs with four half centuries. He also recorded the fastest fifty in the competition - off 21 balls against Deccan Chargers.
During the IPL it was clear that Pathan was not a mere slogger but a scientific hitter of the ball. The manner in which he launched into his lofted shots, the clean strike off the middle of the bat, the perfect follow through and the way the ball soared high into the sky and into the various stands was something that had fans delirious with joy. He certainly had a major role in Rajasthan Royals winning the title and as a bonus his subtle off spin saw him pick up a few wickets. The man of the match award in the final was the icing on the cake.
A major plus point is Pathan's ability to bat just about anywhere. In the Twenty20 World Cup final he opened the batting. In ODIs he has gone in at No 4 or No 5 as a pinch hitter as the team wanted to make adroit use of his natural ability to hit the ball hard and high. One only hopes that this is going to be a surprise tactic used now and then and not on a regular basis. One certainly would not want Pathan's path to go downhill as it happened to his younger brother. In the early years of the new millennium Irfan Pathan was shaping up pretty well to emerge as Indian cricket's next all rounder until Greg Chappell ruined his career while needlessly using him conspicuously in his damaging policy of experimentation. Indian cricket needed Irfan the bowler much more than Irfan the batsman and his place was in the late order. By promoting him as a pinch hitter all too often Chappell was responsible for destroying his natural qualities as a bowler and it
was not really a surprise when he lost his place in the side. The two incidentally have appeared together in a few ODIs making them the first brothers to represent India together since the Amarnath siblings Surinder and Mohinder played in Pakistan in 1978.
As I said it is Pathan's attitude that will stand him in good stead in future as he attempts to clinch a regular place in the ODI squad. He carries the fight into the enemy camp with thrilling counter attacks. During his quite unforgettable 50 not out off 29 balls against England at Indore, he hammered Steve Harmison successively for two sixes and a four in the last over of the innings making sure that his team could post a match winning total instead of a challenging one.
Yusuf has earned a name for himself as a big hitter but he is also more than a handy off spinner. With Harbhajan Singh around and with Sehwag and Yuvraj all too ready to lend a helping hand his opportunities have been few. Even so he has been pretty useful and one gets the distinct impression that he could be highly successful if given the full quota of overs.
Irfan has freely acknowledged his elder brother's prodigious talent. "I always thought he was the more talented. It's just that I got lucky and got the big break sooner." So now we know that Yusuf Pathan is not over rated. There are some cricketers who are not to be judged on facts, figures and statistics. They are to be judged on their attitude and Pathan wears that on his sleeve.