Yusuf Pathan: A maverick extraordinaire
“You try to stamp him out, and yet he keeps coming back.” - Anonymous
Mike Atherton, the former England captain, was nicknamed the Cockroach because he was very hard to dismiss once set. He bailed out his side on more than one occasion, despite not being in the best of form at times.
Last night, a mercurial maverick from Baroda did exactly that sort of thing – although in his case, the format necessitated rapid scoring, in very little time.
He also sought redemption from his lean patch.
At stake was the second spot in the league table, and it had to be done in 15.2 overs. With a batting line-up boasting of an Orange Cap holder at the top of the order as well as power hitters down the order, one would have expected the Kolkata Knight Riders (who had put together an incredible winning streak of late) to chase down 160 without breaking a sweat. After all, they had beaten their opponents – the spirited Sunrisers Hyderabad – once before.
Twenty20 is a funny game. It’s very much similar to that old game Minesweeper – one wrong move and you’re blown to smithereens. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if a collapse is triggered, or, if the big shots start flowing at any crucial stage in a high stakes game, one team never recovers.
It’s just what the Sunrisers were subjected to yesterday, despite being on top for most of the game.
The orange outfit put up a fighting total on a tricky Eden Gardens track, despite no batsman going on to score a half century. The Knights, on the other hand, were shoddy in the field – probably giving a lesson on how to drop the simplest of catches. I was surprised to see Vijay Dahiya, their assistant coach, sitting with an inscrutable expression on his face as he watched his wards fluff catches that Geoff Boycott would refer to as dollies. Infuriating? Definitely.
The target set was 161 – an average score by Twenty20 standards – but it was hardly going to test the likes of Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir now, was it?
Gambhir fell to a momentary lapse of judgment, Manish Pandey didn’t fire, and Shakib al Hasan fell prey to a wild swing. In between, KKR’s biggest hope Uthappa mistimed a shot off the wily leg-spinner Karn Sharma. Even worse for the home team, Dutch all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate suffered the ignominy of being run out on the first ball he faced.
It seemed like the end of all hope. The 15 over mark began to loom over the chasers like an ominous shadow carrying dark portents.
Then began the counterattack – from a source of whom high expectations had been made and who hadn’t delivered for the last three seasons. A source whose place in the side was questioned time and again, who had so far failed to justify the ridiculously high price he fetched at the auctions.
Yusuf Pathan knew it was up to him to land the big blows. The India discard started off with a couple of ungainly heaves, surviving a dropped chance by Aniruddha Srikkanth. Groans filled the stadium from the Eden Gardens faithful, who began to fear that a great start would once again be wasted.
Pathan had had enough. He decided to play his natural game – uninhibited yet refined brutality. Parvez Rasool was the first to feel the brunt – the right hander sent the first delivery from the J&K off-spinner clean over square leg. He went on to belt two more boundaries and another massive six – enough to soothe his nerves and bring back his focus. Kolkata crossed the 100-run mark in that over.
The tall, strapping power hitter then took on Karn, who had earlier tormented the purple-and-gold outfit with his bag of tricks. Yusuf tonked the second delivery for another massive six over mid-wicket, and followed it up with yet another monstrous hit straight down the ground. Still 45 runs were needed off 20 deliveries to take the coveted second spot in the table.
SRH skipper Darren Sammy brought back Dale Steyn, but he would never forget the mayhem that was unleashed by the Lethal Weapon.
Shakib’s dismissal in the previous over was the cue for Pathan to cut loose, and what better way to do it than take on the world’s best bowler head on? 4-6-6-4-4-2 was the sequence of shots that were unfurled by the bearded willow wielder. In the process of smashing those 26 runs, Pathan completed his half century in just 15 balls. Wild cheers reverberated throughout the arena at each hit- such remained the audacity of his power play.
He had enough time for one final six off Karn before the leggie dismissed him courtesy a fine catch by Shikhar Dhawan. A standing ovation was accorded to the maverick cricketer as he strode off towards the dugout with his head held high, the fire of redemption clearly visible in his eyes.
Pathan’s belligerence rubbed off on Suryakumar Yadav, who finished the innings well, lofting yet another maximum before Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled a wide to send KKR to the second spot in the team standings.
It took a full set of fourteen matches for the Baroda Bomber to come into his own. But there is a method to his madness – he waits for big occasions to unleash his raw power. With his return to form, the play-offs might just be a tad more interesting this time!