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Yusuf stakes claim for WC

cricket Updated: Dec 09, 2010 01:39 IST
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Listening to Yusuf Pathan, you quickly become aware of a mismatch between the man you saw murdering the bowling an hour ago and the man who sits in front of you now. He is tall and strongly built. A short but unkempt beard makes him look far older than younger brother Irfan -- a clean-shaven handsome man who wears his clothes smartly. Yusuf looks more intimidating.

That is till he begins to speak. First Yusuf patiently listens to the longest of questions. He does not mind if anything asked in English is translated to Hindi for his benefit. He then reveals his humility.

“Thank you for your best wishes. I’m very happy to have scored my maiden one-day century, but happier because the team won,” Yusuf said after the fourth One-day International of the India-New Zealand series at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Man-of-the-MatchYusuf’s 123 not out off 96 balls with seven fours and seven sixes helped India reach a target of 316. It gave India a 4-0 lead in the series, one short of completing a whitewash, and consigned New Zealand to their 10 straight ODI loss.

It was really a one-man show but Yusuf praised two teammates with whom he shared important partnerships. “We rotated the strike well, first me and Rohit (Sharma) and then me and Saurabh Tiwary.”

Sharma and Tiwary are competing with Yusuf for places in India’s middle-order. Yusuf added 80 in 13.5 overs with Sharma for the fifth wicket, contributing 38 to his partner’s 40.

For the sixth, he shared an unbroken partnership of 133 in 15.3 overs. Yusuf scored 85, Tiwary 38.

The way Yusuf shifted gears on Tuesday and chose which deliveries to hit was, in one word, smart.

“He wasn’t that aggressive to begin with.He allowed himself in and then attacked the bowling when the batting power play was taken (after 38 overs),” New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said.

“(Gautam) Gambhir told me if I stay in the middle, the runs will come. I always thought I could get the runs for India,” Yusuf said.

Yusuf believes in himself. Stand-in captain Gambhir does so too. But ahead of next year’s World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the entire country needed an affirmation of that belief on the international stage. Tuesday’s late night show provided it.

Yusuf’s ODI record is still modest, but as New Zealand bowlers will testify, the figures don’t tell half the story. And he batted at number six on Tuesday.

On subcontinent pitches, bowling bouncers consistently is not an option and once the ball is pitched up, it is impossible to stop Yusuf. His hitting areas cover a wide arc from cover to square leg and he can clear the boundary at will. On Tuesday, he cleared the stadium.

With Yuvraj Singh yet to get a big one in recent games, India’s middle-order craves for a monster hitter like Yusuf. And with his off-spin giving him his best ODI figures on Tuesday, Yusuf could turn out to be India’s trump card at the World Cup.

Yusuf is aware of that. Asked about the secret behind the “Pathan power”, he said: “Let it be a secret. A lot of matches have to be won still, including in the World Cup.” Yusuf on Tuesday