Yusuf determined to reclaim India place
Allrounder Yusuf Pathan has recovered from a knee injury and is determined to work his way back into the Indian limited-overs team. Yusuf's only game for India since a disappointing one-day series in the West Indies was a one-off Twenty20 international against England last October; but with Baroda's Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign beginning on Wednesday, with a match against Mumbai, and the IPL in April, he has the opportunity to impress the selectors. One incentive for Yusuf to get back into the national conversation is the 2012 ICC World Twenty20, which will be played in Sri Lanka in September.
"What has happened in the past is gone," Yusuf told ESPNcricinfo. "But there is a lot to look forward to." Apart from the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy, Baroda have also qualified for the domestic Twenty20 competition's knockout stages. Then there is the IPL. "There is a lot of cricket ahead. I have managed my body well over the past two months. I am waiting for my chance."
A little over a year ago, Yusuf Pathan cemented his place in India's World Cup plans with a brutal 68-ball century against South Africa in Centurion. India, 119 for 8 at one stage, lost the game by 33 runs, but Yusuf's ability to turn a match on its head ensured that he would be part of a journey to World Cup success.
Unfortunately, that's when things started to go wrong. An average World Cup for him was followed by the poor tour of the West Indies - he managed 42 runs from four innings - and he subsequently lost his place in the side. A knee injury then kept Yusuf out of the Ranji Trophy. Now, exactly 13 months on from that hundred, the 29-year-old Yusuf finds himself back where he started
The Vijay Hazare tournament gives him the first platform to find his way back and while confident that he will be on the plane to Sri Lanka in September he does not want to get too far ahead of himself. For now, his focus is on the one-day tournament, he said. "I always think only about what's next."
One of the criticisms of Yusuf has been that he needs to adopt a more judicious approach to his batting but Yusuf said he was not going to abandon the aggressive attitude that has helped him get this far. "It is how I scored my hundreds against South Africa and New Zealand [in Bangalore]. It has been my approach since I started playing cricket."
That does not mean he isn't prepared to work on his game. He has spent the last month and a half at the National Cricket Academy ironing out any potential kinks that might have crept in ("there are always some little things that can go wrong") and has been talking to coaches and former players, such as Kiran More, about how to approach certain situations. Yet he understands that it is his ability to hit the ball a long way that makes him stand out. "I need to concentrate and play to my strengths. Whatever team I play for, be it Baroda, be it in the IPL, be it for West Zone, in tough situations my approach has been the same and I have won games for my team."
His international ambitions aside, Baroda need Yusuf to make runs too if they are going to have a chance to win the Vijay Hazare Trophy. They are a young side and it is often the case that as Yusuf goes, so does Baroda. Yusuf is not only acutely aware of this responsibility, but welcomes it. "The team depends on me. When I play well, we win one-sided games."
It is that last sentiment that he hopes to be able to express for India too.
Edited by Dustin Silgardo
Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo