Irfan Pathan (left) talks readily about his game, but is defensive when asked about big brother, Yusuf, failing to live up to the billing in this year's IPL. AFP photo
Irfan Pathan is not perturbed by questions about his performance.
But the moment Yusuf Pathan's failure in IPL V is raised, he hurriedly turns to a Delhi Daredevils' teammate and says animatedly, "KKR are already doing well. They'll rock once he returns to form, right?" The teammate nods in agreement and Irfan looks on with a sense of triumph.
The Pathan brothers are close and have defended each other even to the extent of upsetting the selectors. Yusuf had hit out at the selectors for ignoring his brother for the 2009 Champions Trophy. Irfan returned the compliment sometime later though he had to retract the statement.
This week in the IPL, Irfan dropped an easy catch of Yusuf, and was teased by team-mates and questioned by the media. Irfan admits it is not easy to see each other as opponents. "It is difficult to play against each other. Being professional cricketers, we manage to handle it and also have a bit of rivalry. But we always want the other to do well."
It's more of sibling rivalry with South Africa's Morkel brothers, Delhi's Morne and Albie, the Chennai Super Kings' all-rounder. "With us, affection doesn't count for much. Once we are on the field, we are rivals and the only person who wants both to do well is our mother," says Morne.
Albie would know how competitive top-level cricket is. He made his Test debut in 2009 but was immediately sidelined because Morne had done better than him. Having lost his spot after playing a single Test, Albie is only trying to cement his place in the shorter formats.
Morne doesn't want to comment on why Albie isn't a SA regular. "That's for the selectors to decide."
In terms of international success, the South African duo is better off than the Indian brothers. The same is the case with Australians Mike Hussey (CSK) and David (Kings XI Punjab). The former, dubbed 'Mr Cricket', is a respected Test batsman.
Irfan admits that in trying times, the only way to ease the other's distress is to avoid talking of cricket. "We handle tough times in an easy way. We talk about life in general and keep things simple because talking too much in detail doesn't help."
In IPL V, the Pathans have hardly had a moment to cherish, apart from Irfan's moderate success with the bat and ball. As the tournament reaches its business end and their teams head for the play-offs, will things change for them?