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Yusuf: Once a friend, now a foe

It’s a Catch-22 situation for fans and authorities here ahead of the Rajasthan Royals' clash against the Kolkata Knight Riders. While they are happy to have ‘local boy’ Yusuf Pathan in the city, this time he is pitted against them. Debjeet Kundu reports. Match box

cricket Updated: Apr 15, 2011 02:25 IST
Debjeet Kundu

It’s a Catch-22 situation for fans and authorities here ahead of the Rajasthan Royals' clash against the Kolkata Knight Riders. While they are happy to have ‘local boy’ Yusuf Pathan in the city, this time he is pitted against them.

So one hand, expect massive cheers when the hard-hitter comes out to bat today, but rest assured, many will also praying for him to end up on the losing side.

Homecoming
“Humein toh aap jaante hi ho (Hope you remember us)” — “Bade dino baad aaye, kaise ho? (You’ve come after a long time, how are you?),” were some of the greetings Pathan received while lounging in the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA).

The lusty hitter blossomed under Shane Warne’s captaincy in the first three IPL seasons, and then got a call to the national squad.

On his part, Pathan did acknowledge the erstwhile fan base.

After the usual net session, he was seen working on his sweeps and negotiating balls landing on the off-side corridor with bowling coach, Wasim Akram. The idea was clear, Pathan striking gold is necessary for KKR’s good run to continue, and the first thing on hand is to get past the Shane Warne-Shaun Tait barrier.

While some shots had the Pathan-stamp on them, the touch didn’t seem convincing enough. “He’ll surely play well, har kona jaanta hai is ground ka (he knows every corner of this ground),” said an RCA official. Pathan, who hasn’t had a good run recently, will concur.

Time to strike
The same goes for KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, who looked angry when asked whether his batting justified the costliest player’s tag. The left-hander too worked overtime with Akram after the rest of the side had left. With Brett Lee looking good to play in today's match, Gambhir might have a loaded arsenal. But that won't stop Tait and the Royals' new entrant, Shane Watson, from testing the KKR batsmen.

Early days in the IPL, no doubt, but Jaipur looks set to stage one of the most exciting matches in this year's League.

Exciting times
For the Royals, these are exciting times. Apart from riding on consecutive wins, Shane Watson will be joining the fold. If the buzz is true, he'll get a taste of the IPL 4 fever in today's match.

The top-three slots look set to have Rahul Dravid, Shane Watson with Johan Botha retaining his No. 3 berth. But with Tait unlikely to sit out, Ross Taylor may have to make way for Watson. Jacob Oram is already out with a hamstring niggle.