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Yusuf Pathan – An enigmatic maverick lacking consistency

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Yusuf Pathan – All or nothing, and mostly the latter

He used to be the cause of frowning faces and creased foreheads whenever he was in his element at the batting crease.

He would give opposition bowlers nightmares, and rival captains would suffer from pounding migraines when he was in full flow; the brow-beaten former NZ skipper Daniel Vettori will vouch for that fact.

Today, the only ones who get hurt by his lacklustre performances are his own captain and teammates.

Today, he toils away in domestic cricket, turns out for the ‘A’ teams in ever-fainter hopes of returning to the national side, and is a gun-for-hire (misfiring at the wrong time) in the marquee Indian Premier League.

Yusuf Khan Pathan – nicknamed the Baroda Bomber – is, in the bigger scheme of things, a maverick who is slowly becoming an enigma, a puzzle that is proving to be unsolvable. From the highs of being a member of two World Cup winning sides to the dismal lows of being dropped from the senior team, the tall, bearded power hitter has seen it all.

He came into his own during the 2006-07 Deodhar Trophy, when he hit his maiden first class century against South Zone in the ODI format, although he had already shown glimpses of his enormous potential in Baroda’s U-17 side in the Vijay Merchant Trophy during the 1999-2000 season as a hard-hitting batsman and handy off-break bowler.

Nearly four years later, his younger half-brother Irfan donned the national colours, while he kept plying his trade on the domestic circuit with varying degrees of success.

His exploits with the bat did not go unnoticed for long; the selectors included him in the squad for the 2007 World T20 championships in South Africa. There, he opened the innings in the final with Irfan by his side, as India won the trophy in an exciting finish.

For the family, the image of Yusuf giving a smiling Irfan a piggy-back ride was worth more than the triumph itself; the man himself must have felt the same.

Then came the IPL in 2008, and Yusuf made merry with his explosive performances. They translated into a spot on the national squad for the ODI format, but though he played in all the games of the Kitply Cup and the Asia Cup, he was – to put it simply – a disappointment. The bat remained silent while the off-breaks were ineffective. He was dumped.

Once again, he returned to domestic cricket and continued to excel. The five wise men gave him another shot at ODIs – he responded with his maiden half-century against England. But following a poor showing in both the 2009 IPL (barring the occasional moments of brilliance) and the subsequent World T20 in England, he was once again sent back to the hinterlands.

A century and double century in the Duleep Trophy final in 2010 saw him back in national colours. He celebrated his recall with a magnificent triple-figure knock against New Zealand, clubbing the bowlers with absolute ferocity and helping his side chase down a mammoth target.

He would repeat these heroics against the hostile pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel when India toured South Africa, absorbing numerous body blows while compiling another hundred in quick time.

What these performances show is that Yusuf is a man of immense talent; in fact, the keenest follower of the game would tell you that whoever plays such knocks has to be truly special.

It also happens that players of such calibre are able to produce these scintillating displays only once in a few games. And it is also true that spectators are drawn to the magnetism and charisma that raw, explosive hitters like Yusuf exude in abundance.

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