As the Kolkata Knight Riders players waited at the Bengaluru Airport for their flight to Kolkata, fans ran towards Yusuf Pathan for selfies. The previous day, he had played a match-winning knock against Royal Challengers Bangalore alongside Andre Russell.
Such is the respect Yusuf has earned this season. While skipper Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa have done well at the top, Yusuf has taken care of the middle order. A look at the team report card shows he has an average of nearly 90 this year. It is the change in approach that has worked well for him and the team.
In the 15 games he has played, Yusuf has batted in 12 and remained unbeaten in eight. As a result, he has gotten the team out of trouble with three half-centuries so far. In the inaugural IPL, Yusuf had played 15 games for Rajasthan Royals and scored 435 runs at 31.07. His contribution had played a key role in the Royals’ IPL victory.
He had faced 243 balls in 14 innings, and this year he has played 242 deliveries in just 12 games. Between 2008 and 2016, Yusuf had average IPL campaigns.
Added responsibility doesn’t mean Yusuf is expected to change his natural game. Instead, he is expected to take calculated risks. Against RCB in Bengaluru, KKR were in a precarious situation but once Yusuf came to the crease, he made sure he rotated strike with Russell and took the side to victory.
Yusuf also played a role in KKR’s IPL victory in 2014. Batting at No 4, he scored 36 off 22 balls against Kings XI Punjab in the final. Yusuf has been a handy bowler as well. In 15 games, he has bowled only thrice but his tight bowling has helped Gambhir against the left-handers. On Wednesday against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he bowled three overs with the new ball and conceded just 17 runs.
Gambhir rated him as an asset and how he had taken pressure off the middle order.