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Like in life, in sports too there are people who remain an enigma. At least to those who watch them from the outside. They fascinate and frustrate in equal measures. At times, one feels they are surviving on their reputation and not its execution. But these enigmatic geniuses often find someone who understands their worth, who believes in them as much as they believe in themselves.
Yusuf Pathan is an enigma. Everyone knows of his supreme leather-pounding power and they love him for that. But to their dismay they don’t see that skill being converted into runs. But those close to him and his team mates see what others can’t. His Kolkata Knight Riders skipper, Gautam Gambhir, surely does.
Questions have been raised about Pathan’s place in the KKR Playing XI since the beginning of the 2012 IPL. And with every low score against his name, they have gotten louder. In IPL 2013, Pathan has played three matches so far and scored 18*, 0 and 27.
They’re not big scores but they’re enough to tell his team-mates and management that, “He is going to produce something special for KKR this season”, in the words of Gambhir and “We all in the team have a gut-feel that a big knock is coming up soon off his bat” according to Brad Haddin. That gut feel led the team to promote Pathan to No.4 in the batting position against the RCB. He started out with three boundaries and ended with 27 off 17 balls.
We, at iplt20.com, spoke to the man himself to find out the mystery behind such a unanimous feeling in the KKR camp about this being his season. And we found that the main reason behind the faith his team puts in him is the faith he has in himself.
Read Yusuf Pathan opening up about his approach to batting below and you’ll know what we mean. Also, you’ll know the story behind his jersey No. 999!
When was it decided that you will bat higher up the order at No.4 and what was the reason behind it?
Yesterday Gauti told me that I’ll bat at No.4 saying that I’ll get more overs to bat. He told me, ‘just be relaxed and play the way you want to play. You’ve been batting well in the nets and so, just back yourself’.”
So should we expect to see you come at No.4 in a few more matches to come?
The decision lies with the team management and it also depends on the match situation. But I think since I’m batting well in the nets, the team might want me to continue in that position. Whenever someone questions your place in the side, Gautam Gambhir always defends you saying, ‘Yusuf Pathan is a match-winner and he’ll continue to play’. Has any captain shown more faith in you than he has?
After Shane Warne, he’s the one captain who has shown the most faith in me. He knows how I have won matches for my team in the past. I know how to turn matches in favour of my team. Yes, I didn’t do well last year partly because I was coming back from an injury. I had missed the domestic season and walked in directly in such a high pressure tournament. That doesn’t mean that I’ve become a bad cricketer in the span of three or six months. Gautam understands that and he’s always backed me.
Both Gambhir and Brad Haddin have said that everyone in the team has this gut feel that Yusuf Pathan is going to produce something very special for the team this season. What have they seen?
I think that gut feel has a lot to do with the way I’ve been batting in the nets. They must have also followed my domestic season where I scored some big runs for Baroda and West Zone. It’s not only them but even I have a feeling that I will do something special for the team this time.
They say about Virender Sehwag that he’s the gamble every captain loves to take because on his day he can win you the game singlehandedly. The same is said of you. Do you think you’re the Virender Sehwag of the middle-order?
(With a pleasantly surprised look on his face) I am a huge fan of Virender Sehwag and I simply love watching him bat. He never lets a bowler dominate him. You can practice as many shots as you want in the nets but if you don’t play them in a match, what’s the use of all those hits?
Even I like to go with the same approach of playing the same shots in the match as I do in the nets. Yes, I get out sometimes but when I succeed, the team wins with ease.
Why haven’t you bowled so far in this season?
We have so many bowlers and they’re all doing so well that the captain doesn’t feel the need to bring me on into the attack. I think it’s a good sign that we haven’t required our part-time bowlers so far. However, the captain has it at the back of his mind that if ever the need arises, he has a backup spinner. I am practising my bowling in the nets and I’m ready to bowl whenever the captain calls on me.
Today you came and hit the first three balls for fours. Is it that easy? Don’t you need the time to settle down?
Sometimes it feels like it’s very difficult and other times it’s very easy. Today was one such day when I felt as if the ball was coming in my area all the time and I just had to get on with my game. I felt that way in Kolkata as well and I think it’s a good sign for me. That’s how I have been playing all these years and that’s how I like to go about my game.
Just out of curiosity, why is your jersey number 999?
I was sitting at home and I thought that I want to do something new – just like the team’s been saying that I will produce something new this season. I called up our team manager and told him that I want No. 27 on my jersey. He said it is already taken. I asked for No.9 but even that wasn’t available. So, I called him after a while and told him, ‘ek kaam kar, tu teen navve laga de (do one thing, put three 9s)’. I was just trying to bug the manager and he really put 999 on my jersey.
Only last month Moises Henriques was doing a fine job of establishing himself as a Test cricketer by showing character and skills with the bat on his first Test tour to India. His back-to-the-wall unbeaten 81 on Test debut in Chennai was rated high by one and all.
Three matches into the 2013 IPL and Henriques has already shown some positive signs of form with both bat and ball. After an all-round effort of 2 for 14 in three overs and 44 (off 40 balls) in Hyderabad, Henriques produced figures of 4-0-24-2 to help RCB defeat the Kolkata Knight Riders at home.
The 26-year-old Portuguese-born Australian all-rounder caught up with iplt20.com after RCB’s eight-wicket win. He spoke about the relief of finally being on the same side as Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, his fellow Portuguese, Cristiano Ronaldo and more.
Did the time spent in India during the Test series help you hit the ground running this IPL?
After playing the Tests I was already well aware of the Indian conditions and weather. So, that did help me. But the formats are completely different and these wickets have a lot more bounce than the Test wickets did. So far it’s been okay; the last game wasn’t too good for me as a bowler (he conceded 18 runs in the only over he bowled), but today I was lucky enough to get a couple of wickets.
A few weeks back you were out on the field trying to get Virat Kohli out. And now he’s your captain.
I much prefer playing in his team than bowling to him. I was very glad that RCB picked me because that meant that I don’t have to bowl to Virat and Pujara for a while. I bowled to them both during the Test series and they never got out.
Virat is touted as the future India leader. How would you describe him as a captain?
He’s leading from the front and he’s making some smart choices in the field as well. But the best thing is that he’s batting well and he’s taking it upon himself to win matches for the team. He got very disappointed when he got out today (after scoring 35 off 27 balls),but I still thought he batted beautifully.
He’s very expressive on the field. How’s he in the dressing room?
He’s much calmer off the field but you can tell how much he enjoys and loves his cricket from the passion that he plays it with. That’s a very special trait to have. I think he’s a very selfless cricketer and you can tell that from the amount of work he puts in his fielding. Being a fantastic fielder says a lot about a cricketer more than being a great batsman.
Is opening the bowling something you’re used to?
I used to when I was younger and played age cricket but not so much in the last few years. But if I keep getting results like this I wouldn’t mind being an opening bowler. I opened the bowling in the first game that I played and got a couple of wickets. I didn’t open the bowling in the last game and didn’t do so well. So, I think they must’ve thought we need to get him out of the way early.
Would you say that batting in India becomes easier as the format gets shorter?
I would, but only because the ball doesn’t spin as much in the shorter formats and you don’t have the footmarks that you have to deal with on days - 3, 4 and 5. But on the other hand, there’s the pressure to score at a faster rate and when you’ve got world-class players in every team it’s always going to be a tough ask.
Your jersey number, 7, is the same as that of another famous sportsman from your town of birth, Funchal (Portugal).
There’s nothing to it but it’s a very good point. No.7 was my first every jersey number and then I took 21. Here I wanted to take 21 but I couldn’t so I went for 7. It is a coincidence that it is the same number as Cristiano Ronaldo’s. I’m going to have to take the credit of putting Portugal on the cricketing map because I don’t think there’s anyone else at the moment.