South Africa v India, 3rd ODI, Cape Town January 19, 2011

If it's in his area, Yusuf will hurt you

Yusuf Pathan will struggle against the short ball, he will take blows on his body, but if you pitch it in his hitting area, he will make a clean connection and he will hurt you

Sometimes when you have a weakness, you go out and maximise your strength, and hurt the opposition with it. Matthew Hayden did that. He wasn't a technically great batsman, but he charged at the opposition, intimidated them, making them fear he could hurt them in a short period of time. Yusuf Pathan is too gentle a person to have that sort of intimidating aura. He won't snarl and he won't sledge. He will struggle against the short ball, he will take blows on his body, but if you pitch it in his hitting area, he will make a clean connection and he will hurt you.

South Africa discovered that tonight. When Yusuf came in to bat, they had the game sorted at 93 for 5 on a pitch that was two paced and had variable bounce. They wasted no time in taking off the part-timer, who had taken the wicket, and brought back Dale Steyn to dish out some bouncers. Steyn didn't bowl a great over, and Yusuf pounced on a short and wide delivery, cutting it for four. A couple of mis-fields later, he was all over Johan Botha, hitting three sixes in the same direction, over long-on, each bigger than the previous one.

It is a fascinating contest. The bowling side is looking for weak moments from a technically limited, but dangerous, batsman, and the batsman is looking to create doubt in the bowling side's mind with big hits off everything pitched in his hitting area. When the target is not huge, three sixes tend to work.

"If you let the bowler know you can play the shots, and you will play the shots, he will stay under pressure," Yusuf said after his match-winning innings. "I went in thinking that I will play my shots, that I won't be in any hurry to play those shots, that I will wait for the balls in my area. That is my strong point, and I have been successful doing that."

This was not an easy pitch to do that on. Graeme Smith's assessment of the surface, and therein Yusuf's innings, said a lot about the effort. "Yusuf was probably the difference between the two teams tonight," he said. "Every batter struggled to score freely tonight, and he went better than a run a ball. He timed the ball sweetly, which every other batter struggled to do, so he was the real difference. When he came in they were under real pressure and he counterattacked really well. Having known Yusuf, he has that potential, so well done to him tonight."

It wasn't just those three sixes, though. For, there was backlash after that. Back came the fast bowlers, back came the bouncers, and the ball did get up at Newlands. Yusuf took two blows on the shoulder too. The moment they pitched up, though, he went big. Immediately after the three sixes, he went through a spell during which one run came off 11 balls, but a pitched-up delivery from Lonwabo Tsotsobe was enough to end it. Over mid-off. Four.

"There was bounce in the pitch," Yusuf said. "But I knew if I played a few shots, things would get easier. If you hit the bowlers, the opposition gets onto the back foot. A lot of things run through the captain's mind, and you benefit from that."

His best shot wasn't one of the three sixes. That was when he cut Wayne Parnell from in front of the stumps, creating room through an open face, almost chopping on the ball and finding the gap by performing the act slightly later than his usual cuts.

Yusuf's two most recent innings in international cricket have achieved similar results - improbable wins - but in completely different conditions against completely different attacks. Bangalore and Cape Town are worlds apart, so that should point to good form. A batsman like him, who is limited in terms of technique and runs mostly on confidence and intimidating the other side, will need that kind of form consistently to be successful at the international level.

However, these two innings have ensured Yusuf will have a presence in the World Cup, something many batsmen with better averages fail to attain. That presence can be an abstract concept, but it is felt easily when Yusuf is there. His words sum it up best: "A lot of things run through the captain's mind, and you benefit from that."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nick on January 20, 2011, 20:35 GMT

    It was great to see Yusuf Pathan materializing my predictions to my friends. I told them he would be the biggest hitter of the ball in Indian side but if groomed could become the baddest also.

    He certainly got supported from Warne in IPL, Dhoni has to realize what a lethal weapon he has in his arsenal and give him more chances. If groomed, he would only become better within short time.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 17:05 GMT

    As VVS is for India for Test cricket, so is Yusuf for Indian ODI team...

  • am on January 20, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    God knows what happened to irfan .. really dhoni would love to have irfan pathan back .. I would love to see irfan and yusuf both in playing X1 ..both are big hitters of ball. both are dangerous as batsman and yusuf is proving to b a good bowler taking Ab's wicket.. irfran has to re invent his bowling then our indian team can boast about fast bowling allrounders.. and irfran as a batsman can replace rohit sharma any day ..this guy rohit is a big liability for indian team .. Rohit doesnt have the technique nor the mental strength of any our indian players.. he blocks 10 to 20 balls and if anything is pitched up around off stump he will nick one and get out.. or play rash shot and get .indian team doesnt require such players.. there are far more better players who can fit into indian team .. so indian team will do without rohit sharma.. and irfan can come in as batsman if at all he doesnt improve bowling..

  • Riyas on January 20, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    yusuf always big hitter and he can be a match winner all the time but dhoni not giving much chances like gambir , dhoni must replace with gambir, sreekant must be remove from the selection comitee cos keeping formless vijay his relative in the squad

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    My team for India WC2011 : ( Batting Order ) 1. Sehwag 2. Gambhir 3. Sachin 4. Yuvraj 5. V. Kohli 6. Dhoni 7. Y Pathan 8. Praveen 9. Bhajji 10. Zak 11. Munaf Raina will be the immediate replcement for any injured batsman

  • DINESH on January 20, 2011, 6:47 GMT

    ILOVECRICKET1234: You are the only guy given such statement. If your comment is correct, Mohd. Azharuddin, Zahir khan, Pataudi, Syed Kirmani would not have played for India. If your comment is correct Danish Kaneria would not have played for Pakistan. Please change your mindset and do not link religion with cricket. It is the duty of politicians. If you are a politician you carry on your duty and make such comments.

  • Messi on January 20, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    @ilovecricket1234, that's a ridiculous statement. Zaheer Khan is also muslim but Indians hail him and consider him as the boss of pace attack. I am sure with time Pathan will also get similar hero status.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 3:17 GMT

    Its good to see India to win such a thriller. But is it true that Pathan has really shined on that day? There were some tentative shots played by him, Luckily there were no fatalities in such cases. I wish to see him play more confidently and with good feet movement.

    He may be a good choice with World Cup happening in Sub continent, but I slightly doubt him to be a future prospect. The problem is that I always tend to have a feeling that Pathan can always deceived easily as is the case with Shahid Afridi..

    I really wish I am wrong..

  • swaroop on January 20, 2011, 2:36 GMT

    @Kunal Bhatia : i dont think that will happen.yuvraj proved his form in the second odi and he is one of our main player who can win matches single handedly.more over dhoni have a fifth bowler in yuvraj.i think raina is the one who i think with the current form will be unable to find place in the eleven.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 2:12 GMT

    I think rain has no place in wc plans for india. I think we should have burst kinky instead of rain. Sewage and tendulkar both can be prt time bowlers

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