One thing that reminds one of Yusuf Pathan is the power that he possessed.
He was unlike his brother, Irfan. He was an introvert and much less of a showman in that sense in comparison to his younger brother.
Yet when he strode onto the field, Yusuf left an impact in every way. He was a true blue Pathan who appeared to be in command every time he walked onto the field.
For a brief while in his career, it did appear as if he commanded everything, he surveyed but sadly for him it did not last too long.
His best phase as an India cricketer coincided with the national side becoming world champion in two different formats and it just showed that he was an impact cricketer.
For a while before he made his India international debut in dramatic style, Yusuf had been spoken about for his powerful batting and restrictive off-spin bowling. India of today would love to have such a cricketer in their white-ball line-ups, just to provide skipper Virat Kohli with some more options with the ball.
But back to Yusuf and his first sighting as a powerful striker came in the final of the T20 World Cup in 2007. He was just simply nonchalant in the way he struck in his very first over in international cricket. Sure, the format did not provide any scope of a look-in, but Yusuf just showed complete disdain. He had been drafted just hours before as a replacement for the unfit senior Virender Sehwag.
So for him to just get into the act right away and that too in a world event final against arch rivals Pakistan was quite simply audacious.
He was unlike any Indian cricketer at the time who were just getting accustomed to the vagaries of the T20 format because we as a country were just embracing the format. Yusuf seemed to have taken to the format quicker than most.
That initial phase of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was all about setting a standard, Yusuf played no small a part in putting the tournament on a pedestal. The way he smashed the now much fancied Mumbai Indians in 2010 at the Brabourne Stadium while turning out for Rajasthan Royals had been stuff of legends.
The year of 2010 belonged to Yusuf in many ways, just a couple of months before this IPL bonanza came a whopping 210 off just 190 balls for West Zone in the Duleep Trophy final against South Zone. That was a final and a chase for record books, as West were chasing a mammoth 541 for a win.
To chase down such a big target and that too after being so far behind in the title clash was all because of the brute power of Yusuf Pathan. He had also scored a 108 off 76 balls in the first innings of the same finale.
The world of Indian cricket sat up and took notice of Yusuf who came in at just the right time for Mahendra Singh Dhoni the India captain who was looking for that extra batting all-rounder to shore up the middle-order. Yusuf fit right in as the final jigsaw puzzle.
There were two knocks in particular in a space of couple of months in 2010-11 first against New Zealand at Bangalore and then at Centurion against South Africa in a series decider which sort of sealed a slot for Yusuf in the 2011 World Cup squad.
Both the efforts from Yusuf were hundred plus knocks and both put the fear of god in the rival side. His powerful enforcing effort just put to shade New Zealand quite effortlessly after India had been in a spot of bother. The effort against South Africa did not yield a series win for India, but what did was mark Yusuf out for the World Cup.
India utilised Yusuf in the World Cup 2011 ahead of the much fancied Suresh Raina who at that stage would have been a slightly better fielder. Yusuf played some useful knocks but come the latter half of the World Cup, Dhoni & Co felt much more comfortable having the experience and the variety of a lef-handed Raina over Yusuf.
Raina did play a crucial knock in the semi-final against Pakistan and the rest was history as they say.
Yusuf started tapering off from thereon as an India cricketer, but then began a partnership made in heaven with another introvert, Gautam Gambhir. Together Yusuf and Gambhir forged a terrific partnership along side Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla and Manish Pandey amongst many others at the Kolkata Knight Riders.
It was in this phase that Kolkata Knight Riders became champion twice. Yusuf played no mean a part with his no-holds barred approach. His best years in T20 cricket coincided with the rise of KKR as a champion side.
This was the perfect opportunity for the Indian think-tank to recall him because he provided the right amount firepower in the middle-order in T20 cricket. But the think-tank at the time was loathe to try T20 specialists because they preferred to look at the format as an extension or sometimes just as a dry run for the ODI format.
Yusuf’s eventual move away from KKR also sort of indicated the beginning of the end, because he just could not replicate the success with Sunrisers Hyderabad. Towards the end he was not even a confirmed starter in the XI for Sunrisers and the end seemed nigh. No one picked him in the auction over the last couple of years, indicating that the salad days were over.
At the start of 2021 when the domestic cricket returned after much struggle owing to the global pandemic, Yusuf did not make it to the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy squad of Baroda. That was a glaring omission, one which indicated that the time was well and truly up.
Throughout his career, Yusuf remained in the shadows of his much fancied brother, Irfan, but whenever he got it right on the field, there was very little anyone could do to stop him. When he hit, it always stay hit and that remained his trademark.
Everyone would like to remember Yusuf in different ways. There is no better way to remember him than his one moment of fun during the 2009 T20 World Cup, when he introduced himself to the broadcast audience.
“Hi I am Yusuf Pathan…and my nickname is Yusuf Pathan,” he ended with a smile which was never his style. So, let us remember him like that just as Yusuf Pathan!
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