By Vincent Sunder
“The wicket was very difficult to bat on, had sort of plates on it, and its two-paced nature made strokes very difficult. It also had up and down bounce". Graeme Smith was thus quoted after the 3rd India-South Africa ODI game at Newlands.
On the last two successive occasions when he has batted in ODI games, Yusuf Pathan had bailed the side out from precarious positions and led the side to victory. Both efforts saw him emerge as the “Man of the match”.
Is Yusuf becoming for India in ODIs what VVS Laxman is in Tests? If Laxman personifies determined confidence in dire situations to bail the side out, Yusuf brims with aggressive intent to lead the side to wins.
For a larger part of his career, Laxman suffered from insecurity. Despite his brilliance and performances, all it took was a few failures for his place in the side to be questioned. Yuvraj’s blazing ODI form often threatened Laxman’s position. In fact, he lost his place to Yuvraj Singh in the 2006 home series against England after one solitary failure. In the preceding five Test innings in a span of 3-4 months, Laxman had scores of 69 and 104 (against Sri Lanka), and 0 not out, 90 and 19 (against Pakistan). Laxman could well have become a bigger performer had he felt assured of his side in the place in those days.
Yusuf may have shortcomings against genuine pace directed at his rib-cage, but his huge heart and strong body, coupled with his attacking instincts makes him a talent that India should use effectively in the abbreviated versions of the game. When the situation gets tough, he doesn’t look to merely survive defending; he works towards calculated assaults to stay on top of the opposition. On a day when other batsmen, with the possible exception of Virat Kohli, found the going tough, Yusuf demolished the opposition with his positive approach.
Both Laxman and Yusuf are simplicity personified. The perverted mind of Fake IPL Player may have projected Yusuf as a womanizer during the 2nd IPL, but notwithstanding his multi-millionaire IPL price, he appears to be a simple, low-profile persona, very similar to Laxman. In recent times, more in the case of Laxman, both have shown huge heart, big temperament and worked magical results when the top-order failed to deliver.
One hopes that Yusuf, who has been Laxmanesque in his last two ODI batting efforts, is given the confidence of a regular slot in the playing XI, especially in the upcoming World Cup games.
Recap of the Games
Yusuf walked in for his first game of the India-South Africa ODI series when Yuvraj Singh departed at 93 for five in the 25th over. India needed 128 to win at the halfway stage. Suresh Raina was the only frontline batsmen and South Africa had five over each from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel at their command. Jean-Paul Duminy bowled the next over and Steyn returned back to the attack, replacing Duminy who had dismissed Yuvraj. Given the ‘rib-cage problems’ that both Yusuf and Raina have been known for, this was not a surprise.
After the expected bouncer at Yusuf, Steyn went short, outside the off to get hammered to the backward point for a boundary. That was one bad ball from Steyn and it was appropriately dealt with. Johan Botha’s next over was eventful. Pathan launched into a forceful off-drive and edged the ball between ’keeper AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith to the boundary followed by a Steve Waugh-like sweep to deep square leg that Lonwabo Tsotsobe messed up to concede a boundary.
More importantly, Yusuf was positive, with his attacking instincts very alert and on a wicket that was not quite an ODI belter.
Turn the clock back to December 7, 2010, when India played New Zealand at the Chinnaswamy Stadium and were 108 for four in the 20th over when Pathan walked in to bat. India needed 208 runs at that stage with an asking rate of 6.93 runs per over. Rain interruptions, which Daniel Vettori very clearly said were more in their favor than for the batsmen, didn’t deter the marauding Yusuf to lead India to a win with a blistering unbeaten 123 that included seven sixes. India won comfortably with seven balls to spare.
Cut back to the India-South Africa game Cape Town on January 18, 2011. For reasons only known to him, Smith took Steyn off and brought back Duminy. With Morne attempting a catch off a Yusuf slog sweep only to let the ball on to the boundary, Yusuf had moved to 19 off 17 balls. The next over from Botha changed the mood of the match as the last of the three sixes over long-on sailed out of the boundary. His 59 off 50 balls had come in when India were looking doomed on a batting surface that posed enough challenges.
(Vincent Sunder aspired to play Test cricket, but had to struggle to play ‘gully’ cricket! He managed a league side to title triumph in the KSCA tournaments. He was debarred from umpiring in the gully games after he once appealed vociferously for a caught-behind decision when officiating as an umpire! After two decades in the corporate sector, he became an entrepreneur with the objective of being able to see cricket matches on working days as well. Vincent gets his ‘high’ from cricket books and cricket videos and discussing cricket.)