From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.13 :: Apr. 01, 2010

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CRICKET / FOCUS/YUSUF PATHAN

The Baroda blaster

Rajasthan Royals' investment in Yusuf Pathan is paying rich dividends in IPL 2010. His 37-ball hundred took the IPL 2008 champion within sniffing distance of victory against Tendulkar's Mumbai Indians at the Brabourne Stadium, a confirmation that no target, even one over 200, is beyond reach in T20 when ambitious batsmen are at work. Over to Nandakumar Marar.

PTI

Yusuf Pathan provided entertainment of the highest order against Mumbai Indians before being run out at the nonstriker's end.

Yusuf Pathan deals with bowlers on his own terms in all forms of cricket. The slam bang approach is counter-productive to team interests in a five-day game, even in the 50:50 variation when sudden acceleration is not always necessary. Destructive batsmen like him are valuable in Twenty20 where run-getting matters, whatever be the manner.

The IPL is an entertainment package, with sixes and fours keeping fans thirsting for action from the hitmen. Yusuf Pathan provided entertainment of the highest order against Mumbai Indians before being run out at the non-striker's end.

Rajasthan Royals' investment in the Baroda blaster is paying rich dividends in IPL 2010. His 37-ball hundred took the IPL 2008 champion within sniffing distance of victory against Tendulkar's men at the Brabourne Stadium, a confirmation that no target, even one over 200, is beyond reach in T20 when ambitious batsmen are at work.

This was a different Pathan, mixing full-blooded shots with soft ones. “I don't try to play innovative shots like the switch-hit when I am aware my power is enough (to clear the ropes). I try to concentrate on that rather than complicate matters trying new things,” he said about the IPL ton which earned captain Shane Warne's praise.

Warne knows to press the right buttons in motivating players, so his rating of Pathan's knock as the “best ever” may be a psychological ploy. Coaches at Baroda have felt that better shot selection will make him a more effective batsman and therefore more destructive.

Pathan loves to hit the first ball out of the park but against MI he lashed only one six in 12 balls faced, before chancing his arm against slow bowlers Ali Murtuza, Rajagopal Sathish and Sanath Jayasuriya. Zaheer Khan was dealt with respect, Lasith Malinga was tackled with caution. Seven sixes and nine fours were struck after this phase, as Pathan took the expressway to the 100-run mark.

The slow bowlers and even the medium-fast Ryan McLaren didn't know where to land the ball as Pathan instinctively got to the pitch of the ball and swung it over the fielders with clean hits. Fast bowler Malinga was smacked, the ball soaring over his head and dropping one bounce near the sight-screen.

Tendulkar kept men on the fence for McLaren, but Pathan got inside the line and adjusted his footwork for late cuts to third-man as runs came via risk-free fours. For a batsman constantly criticised in first-class cricket for throwing his wicket away playing reckless shots when on top of the bowling, he showed adaptability and awareness of gaps in the field.

Pathan is known and feared in domestic cricket for anticipation and power in strokeplay — the batsman is so confident of clearing the field against any level of attack that he rarely attempts a run after connecting with a huge swing. One of India's hardest hitters he is also rigid in his thinking. He does not like coaches telling him to curb his aggression for the team's sake.

RR's hitman would have realised by now that the Baroda coaches were not off the mark in asking him to improve his shot-selection. India coach Gary Kirsten advised Virender Sehwag about using the first few overs to get his eye in before going after the bowling. This reasoning applies to Pathan as well.

It worked for the Indian vice-captain in Test cricket, the real test for batsmen. Sehwag is rated as one ofmodern cricket's batting greats, especially for his ability to score at a breathtaking rate in all formats. His 75 off 34 balls (eight fours, five sixes) set up Delhi Daredevils' successful chase against RR in Ahmedabad, where Pathan slipped from hero to zero (five balls).

The RR hitman will realise that consistent big-hitting as done by Sehwag or Adam Gilchrist is more valuable than an occasional high, like the Brabourne blast. Longer stints at the crease, playing more balls and a little respect for bowlers is the surest way for Pathan to move beyond the crowd-puller status in IPL 2010 and be counted among the match-winners.

IPL INDIVIDUAL 100s (Fastest)

37 balls, Yusuf Pathan, RR vs MI in 2010. 42 balls, Adam Gilchrist, DC vs MI 2008. 45 balls, Sanath Jayasuriya, MI vs CSK 2008. 47 balls, Andrew Symonds, DC vs RR 2008.



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