Shy, reticent and a bit unsure of himself. That's how Yusuf Pathan comes across off the field. But give him a willow and throw him to the deep end, he transforms into a confident and expressive fighter whose faith in his abilities borders on arrogance.
South Africa found out the hard way on Tuesday night. The burly Pathan bludgeoned the attack to take India to the doorstep of victory, from where the feisty Harbhajan Singh saw them home in a thrilling finish.
It's indeed not the first time Pathan has played a blinder. He has mercilessly hammered bowlers at different stages at different times --- domestic, IPL and international.
Yet, he would surely count this one as one of the more special knocks, given the conditions and opposition. India were five down for less than 100, and the wicket wasn't easy to play strokes on the way he did, and the South Africa pacers, especially Morne Morkel, came hard at him.
"The wicket was very difficult to bat on. It was two-paced, stroke-making was difficult and the bounce, too, was up and down," said Graeme Smith.
Pathan, though, wasn't bothered. Without caring what the wicket or the bowler had to offer, he went about his job in his typical cavalier fashion.
"It doesn't matter who is bowling. If the ball is in my area, I will go for my shots, come what may. That's been my strong point and that's what has given me success," said Pathan. It's perhaps this Sehwag-like see-the-ball and hit-the-ball philosophy that takes his mind off everything else but the ball.
As much as one would appreciate the audacious strokes he unleashed against the South Africa attack, they weren't the highlight of the knock on Tuesday. More than the strokes, it was the defiance he showed against Dale Steyn and Morkel.
On a realistic note, not many would have given Pathan much of a chance on difficult tracks against top notch attacks. He isn't amongst the better equipped batsmen to handle short and lightening quick stuff, but, on Tuesday, he must have buried a few of the demons.
He showed determination and doggedness could make up for what one lacked in technique. While he happily hammered the balls that came "in his area", he showed the courage to take the uncomfortable one on the body. More importantly, after facing thunderbolts travelling at more than 140 kmph, he looked unruffled.
No wonder, even the opposition skipper was effusive in praise. "Yusuf was the difference between the two teams. Everyone struggled to play freely, but he went better than run a ball and timed the ball sweetly. He has the potential, well done to him," said Smith.