'Sensed an opportunity to play a long innings' - Yusuf
Yusuf Pathan has said he was always confident India would win the fourth ODI against New Zealand, and tipped his match-winning hundred to be the "turning point" for his life and career.
When Yusuf came to the crease, India were 108 for 4 with 30.3 overs remaining. "I had enough overs in hand, and I sensed an opportunity to play a long innings," he said. "With Rohit [Sharma] and Saurabh [Tiwary], we rotated the strike well and kept in touch with the run-rate. At no stage did I feel we were going to lose the game."
Sharma fell for 44 with the score on 188, and a short while later, rain brought a halt to proceedings for an hour. When play resumed, India still needed 113 runs from 14 overs, with Yusuf and the 20-year-old Tiwary the last line of defence. "At the rain break, Gautam [Gambhir] told me to utilise the Powerplay to good effect. He advised me not to throw my wicket away, and said if I stayed in the middle till the end, I would win the match for India. I am glad I proved him right."
While his unbeaten 123 came from just 96 balls, Yusuf showed some unusual restraint early in his innings. "I don't change my natural game. But of late, I am trying to spend some time in the middle before going for my strokes. But if there is an opportunity to hit the ball, I will not hesitate to do so."
Despite the century, Yusuf does not see his role in the team changing. "In this Indian batting line-up, we have big players up the order, who are playing very, very well. So I believe that my best role in the team is to play down the order. It is in this position that I am confident to finish off games and help India win from tough situations."
He dedicated his knock to his family and friends, especially his brother, India allrounder Irfan Pathan. "We had to chase down 300-plus and I was able to make my maiden hundred. This knock has given me a lot of joy and happiness. I would like to dedicate this to Irfan, my parents and all my friends and coaches who have supported me all the time."
Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, said that Yusuf was the difference between the teams. "We had a defendable total, our batsmen did well, especially James Franklin. He scored 98 off 69 balls and that was pretty impressive but in the end, Yusuf took the game away from us. He took his time, hit those big shots and made the most of the third Powerplay."