Bikash Singh

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Bikash still thinks cricket's a gentleman's game. And that our batsmen run away with most of the prizes.

The other Pathan

 

He lets his willow do all the talking. He may not know the nuances of proper cricketing shots but he forces opposition captain and bowlers to continuously re-work their plans. He is not any other number seven batsman who is happy to return to the pavilion after playing short cameo knocks.

 

Yusuf Pathan is not just brutal; with time he has evolved into a mature and responsible cricketer. Yusuf, who is calmer in his approach to batting now opens up easily and without letting the opposition get under his thick skin. It's pointless sledging him - he pretends he does not understand!

 

Yusuf has ensured the Pathan name will be in India's team sheet for the 2011 World Cup - his younger brother Irfan was in the 2007 Cup team which was sent packing at the group stage itself. The elder Pathan is part of an Indian squad which is capable of emulating Kapil Dev's 1983 World Cup winning team.

 

The younger Pathan was perhaps the best all-rounder India had after Kapil, but he now seems to have lost the faith of selectors. Like Hurricane Katrina, Irfan came with a bang and disappeared after quick destruction. His swing bowling was potent and was also a good batsman.

 

Greg Chappell, the then coach, forced Irfan to concentrate more on his batting by promoting him up the order with the result his bowling fell apart. Since the 2006 South Africa tour, where he was sent back to regain his form in domestic matches, Irfan has had a tough time getting back in the side and India has seen the rise of the other Pathan.

 

During his India days, Irfan often used to talk about his elder brother who was way better than him, and boy he was not wrong!

 

Yusuf is lively on the field, handy with the ball and thanks to the Indian Premier League continues to be popular for his aggressive but effortless batting.

 

Unlike Australia and Zimbabwe, India hardly had brothers playing at the same time for the national team. Irfan and Yusuf together would have been a treat to watch, but India's chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth and co feel otherwise.

 

The good news however for India is that Yusuf is in prime form - just before the World Cup - and is certain to be in the playing XI. The power-hitter has gradually evolved into a smart cricketer from a good cricketer. His explosive batting aside, Yusuf has developed a proclivity for being a partnership breaker. In the 45 ODIs he has played for India so far, Yusuf has taken 30 wickets.

 

The outrageously gifted all-rounder is virtually impossible to control when he is on the rampage. The recent hundred against South Africa, where he almost took the match away from the Proteas, speaks volumes not only of his value to India, but also the discomfort he can cause to opposing teams when he comes to the crease and gets into his groove.

 

If there were any reservations about his calibre, Yusuf has surely now negated them with his savage as well as entertaining centuries against Proteas and New Zealand. His match-winning 123* against the Kiwis at Bangalore in December 2010 was a treat to watch as he took India home comfortably even though the hosts were chasing a target of 316.

 

With a strike-rate of 115.09 in ODIs, Yusuf is a nightmare for opposition bowlers. In the 694 ODI runs he has scored, Yusuf has hit 55 fours and 36 sixes. One could still argue that he hasn't scored enough but for a player, who comes only after India has lost their fifth or sixth wicket, statistics can lie sometimes as they fail to take into account the importance of the innings of lower middle-order batsmen.

 

Apart from coach Gary Kirsten, the Baroda player owes it to himself to develop into an asset for the Indian team. After losing his place in the national team in 2009, Yusuf worked on his obvious talent to get himself back in the frame for national selection. The company of Shane Warne at Rajasthan Royals served him well.

 

The journey from being a 20-over slugger to an established One-day player could only have been possible with the right attitude and Yusuf has that in plenty.

 

It has indeed been an astonishing transformation and he seems to be enjoying his cricket now. That he can bowl is an advantage; it's his destructive batting that counts.

 

The soft-spoken Indian doesn't involve in verbal pyrotechnics and lets his bat do all the talking - although he has a very gauche way of expressing himself when he takes a wicket.

 

He may not wax eloquence, but there is no doubting that Yusuf is most at ease playing for India and destroying opposition bowling attacks. There are very few batsmen currently playing who can hit the ball harder or straighter than Yusuf.

 

India's fortunes at the World Cup depend as much on Yusuf's broad shoulders as they do on Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag's.

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