South Africa v India, 5th ODI, Centurion January 23, 2011

You have got to fear Yusuf Pathan

Yusuf Pathan has shrugged off blows to the shoulder, rescued India from dire situations, and proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with

You have got to fear a man who knows he can hit anything in his arc for a six. You have got to fear a man who can keep getting hit in the shoulder off the bouncers, and still keeps coming back to smack the fuller deliveries into the crowd. You have got to fear a man who asks for a Powerplay, and still keeps clearing the three men on the boundary. You have got to fear Yusuf Pathan in his current form.

Yusuf has turned three of the last four games he has batted in on their head with some of the cleanest, sustained hitting you'll see. In those three innings he has hit 18 sixes in 216 deliveries, eight of them Sunday. Two of those knocks have won India games from the dead, and one of them gave South Africa a mighty scare after India had been 119 for 8, chasing 268. Two of those innings have come in South Africa against an attack that has peppered him with bouncers, in a series where no other batsman has managed to maintain a strike-rate of a run a ball. His strike-rate of 134.95 tells some other story.

Yusuf has scars to show too. Twice in Cape Town, he was hit in the shoulder, but he just rubbed it and went about making the most of the loose deliveries. On Sunday, another delivery got him in the shoulder, after which he had to get some treatment. His response was to ask for a Powerplay, which he was denied. Even though it was still the start of the over, it seemed the umpires deemed the bowler, Johan Botha, was at his mark already. Hence, he was not allowed the Powerplay.

Bad shoulder, no Powerplay, smack back-to-back sixes over the deep fielders' heads. You have got to fear Yusuf Pathan. On a day that seemed depressingly similar to India as the first day of the tour, when they were bowled out for 136, Yusuf provided them comfort. So much comfort that their captain later said that the lesson from today was that they can chase any total down in the last 10 overs, in the World Cup.

That comfort comes from the knowledge that Yusuf will hurt anything remotely loose just as bad as anybody else does. Those margins of error reduce when he is playing in the form he is in right now. The thinking is not clear then, not with the captain, not with the bowlers. Graeme Smith later said that his side backed off a bit when Yusuf had got going, that his side wasn't as aggressive as it should have been. That, though, wasn't a conscious decision his side had made; that's what somebody hitting sixes as sweetly and cleanly as Yusuf was doing does to any side.

Yusuf also seems to have added the cute - still powerful - shots to his repertoire. He reverse-swept for a six, he flicked over short fine leg from outside off, he ran hard between the wickets. In a 100-run partnership for the ninth wicket, Zaheer Khan, his partner, scored only 13. That South Africa were worried could be seen, that India were feeling it could be seen, that the crowd - no matter who they supported - was enjoying it could be heard.

Yusuf's century off 68 balls, the sixth-fastest by an Indian, and the second-fastest outside the subcontinent, didn't win India the match: it was too much of a climb after the hole the top order had dug. When he walked back after his dismissal, not one person in the sold-out SuperSport Park was sitting. They knew they had seen something special: one of the best exhibitions of hitting in a losing cause. They let Yusuf know that. They were thanking Yusuf for rescuing the last day of what has been a thoroughly enjoyable tour for them. They won't say the tour ended in a whimper. There was a Yusuf Pathan bang at the end.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vijesh on January 26, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    Hats Off Yusuf.... You played man... Raina does not deserve a place. He has lost India many a matches. We don't want a player who will hit a 50 in 20 matches and still there. He should quit for a better cause... to let both Virat and Yusuf adjust in playing 11. Who is backing him ?

    So India can rely on Sehwag, Gambhir, Virat, Tendulkar, Yuvi, Yusuf, Wk Dhoni(no longer WkB), Zaheer, Munaf, Turbanator, Nehra(Why Sree not there).

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    India has very good batting line up for world cup with sehwag & sachin at top,pathan,dhoni & bhaji as finisher....also slow blower bhaji,yuvi & sehwag will perform well in bowling depatment.So this time we have good chance to win world cup,which will be sachin's last world cup....

  • Kumar on January 25, 2011, 20:07 GMT

    This would be 11 - Sachin, Shewag, Gambir, Kholi, yuraj, Dhoni, yusuf, harbi, praveen, zahir, munaf

  • Rohan on January 25, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    yusuf pathan is a champion player, rest of the world see ya in wc......

  • akshay on January 25, 2011, 17:45 GMT

    Terrific counter-attacking cricket from YUSUF... hats off to this fighter.. who takes blows on his body n responds back strongly with his bat. My playing XI in batting order wud be - Sehwag, Gambhir (left-right comb.), Kohli, Sachin (to lend solidarity in middle order n carry innings thro'), Pathan (to smack the spinners), Yuvraj, Dhoni, Bhajji, Zak, Praveen/Munaf, Ashwin/Piyush. Raina and Nehra doesn't deserve a place in this team goin by their form. Hope Gary and Dhoni choose the best XI for the World Cup.

  • diren on January 25, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    Bijendra Yadav I said power hitters down the order win matches and bring excitement to the game at the same time . In that sense klusner was king because he did both….look back at the results from 1998 to 2002 and you will see for yourself how many games klusner won for SA batting with the tail. And to describe his knocks as just " useful" is utter stupidity He was the only devastating finisher in those years so you have got to give him credit….and to put Dhoni in the same class as klusner??? Lol you don't know what you are saying so you rather not speak at all…

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 10:23 GMT

    ya i agree,Yusuf should have come 4/5 so he can stay little more then when he sets he start producing runs. he is not a game winner but he can set the inning for middle order bestmens such as for yuvraj, dhoni, and raina can stay and finish the game. He is great hitter, India ever produce.

  • Cricket on January 25, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    Yusuf is a blessed Player for Indian team. If the rain was not halted during the New Zea Land's match where he made 123 and won the impossible match for India, he would have surely suppressed by Selectors and C_ _ _ _ . God wished and stopped rain. Good results all around.

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    @diri.. u mean only of middle order or lower order batsmen win matches for their country...? can u tell me how many matches SA won due to klusner.??? we all hv been noticed klusner in wrld cup 1999..he played sum useful knock dat time.. but after dat or before wrld cup.. he was juss like a inconsistent player.... u can better described Baven or dhoni who played many handsomely innings for their country( Bevan literally very consistent, dhoni lying same categories of klusner..but slightly better dan him).. n dude hitting 2 sixes, sum 4's n odd 30 or 40's(occasionally) doesn't mean match won by him..if lance klusner ws such a big hitter or consistently winning matches for SA.. SA could hv been 2 or 3 ICC trophies .. n they never been called CHOKER.. mind my wrds :) :)

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    PATHAN(@7) & SEHWAG(@1) would teach all other indian batsman in WC not to scared off. BECOZ all other indian batsman plays likely test matches to not lose a wkt, although they have capability.

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