All-rounder Yusuf Pathan has given a sense of peace to crores of Indian fans before the all-important World Cup, by putting the debate over No. 7 slot to the rest, making the position his own by slamming two scintillating hundreds within the gap of just five ODIs.
Pathan, a natural big-hitter of the ball and a useful off-spinner, gave an already strong Indian ODI outfit an edge which can give them a chance to re-lift the coveted trophy after 27 longs years.
Before the New Zealand series, the only spot which was up for the grab in the World Cup squad, was the No. 7 slot which requires an fiery batsman who can roll his arm over for 4/5 overs. With a strong Indian batting line-up consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni and Suresh Raina in their ranks, India needed a power-hitter who could change the fortune of any match in a few overs.
Ravindra Jadeja was certainly not the right man for the job. He may have been a tad better as a bowler if we compare him with Pathan but his inability to clear the ground and score runs at a fast clip went against him. After giving him umpteen chances, selectors finally and rightly decided to discard him from the team. With Irfan Pathan out of contention with injury, it was his elder brother who was the last man left to do the job.
The five-match ODI series against a struggling New Zealand side, where almost all the seniors decided to take rest, provided an ideal opportunity to test the skills of Pathan as the Team India all-rounder. And he passed the test with flying colours with a blistering ton in the last match which allowed India to whitewash the Kiwis.
But slamming a century on a docile Indian pitch against a hapless team certainly won’t make the whole world take notice of you. However, if you score in South Africa against Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe, then it is no mean achievement. The ton in Centurion has broken some myths about the Baroda dasher. No one now can say that he can’t play fast bowlers.
The centurion innings has really changed the perception about him. The way he plundered runs against word’s best pace bowling attack on a good bouncy track testifies that he has matured as a batsman over the years. He is no longer a batsman who will come up with little cameos only. Now, he is the batsman who will bide his time, will wait for the right opportunity to open up his shoulders and finish the game rather getting out trying to commit hara-kiri.
Skipper MS Dhoni rightly said that Yusuf has all the qualities to become a finisher. It is another matter that he could not win India the decider at Centurion, but the way he played under pressure, the way he tackled the pace bowlers shows he really wants to establish himself in this Indian team.
Dhoni has to remember that Yusuf won’t be successful in every match. His game is such that he will fail more often that he will succeed. Out of ten games, he will probably get success in three or four. The player himself conceded that he is like a boxer who comes up with the knock-out punches against oppositions. If he clicks, there is no doubt that no one can stop India. But he needs a little space, the freedom take on the opposition and more importantly the freedom to fail in some games. Shane Warne had given him that space in Rajasthan Royals where he thrived under his leadership. Dhoni needs to be very careful in getting the best out of him which will ultimately help India lifting the trophy after so many years!