India have ticked almost all the boxes on their wish list for the ongoing one-day series against New Zealand. However, with next year's World Cup in the sub-continent in mind, they would love to see a swashbuckling, IPL-esque innings from Yusuf Pathan.
As he has often shown in domestic cricket and in the IPL, Pathan can match the likes of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh in brutal hitting. However, he is yet to do that at the international level.
So, while his younger brother, Irfan, rehabs at the National Cricket Academy on the M Chinnaswamy Stadium campus here, Yusuf will be dreaming of peppering the stands with some big hits on Tuesday.
Captain Gautam Gambhir hinted the team would give Yusuf a leg up. “Yusuf played with bowlers and not with batsmen in the first game. He was in a situation where he had to go after each and every ball.”
The first game in Guwahati was the only one where Yusuf got a chance to bat. “I would like to give him the opportunity to bat with batsmen as his partners so that he can bat long enough as he is such a destructive player that he can change the game.”
However, Gambhir added: “The top four have really done well and I do not think Yusuf could be brought up in that order. If the situation arises, we might put him at No 5.”
Batting Yusuf one slot higher may not sound a lot and given New Zealand bowlers' inability to take early wickets, it may not lead to a longer stint at the crease either. However, with specialist batsmen such as Saurabh Tiwary and Rohit Sharma also desperate to get a hit, Gambhir's words speak volumes about his faith in Yusuf.
The confidence is understandable because Yusuf can bring a lot on the table for the one-day side. He bowls useful off-spin and can be a regular big-hitter at No. 7 who can also float up the order when required.
Yusuf has a problem with fast bowling directed at his body or head, but he is unlikely to get a lot of that on sub-continent pitches. He is a murderer of spin bowling and has the ability to convert a big total to a huge one and make difficult chases look easy.
A batting line-up comprising Sehwag, Yuvraj and Yusuf will scare most opposition. However, first the real Yusuf must stand up on Tuesday. How Yusuf has fared