Coming out of shadows, the Pathan way

Coming out of shadows, the Pathan way

Yusuf has impressed all with his willingness to stay at the crease

For the third time in four innings, the 28-year-old right-hander cocked a snook at his critics, producing one of the most magical knocks in recent times to all but pull off an improbable, series-clinching victory all on his own in the final one-dayer against South Africa on Sunday.

His second one-day hundred, coming in just 68 deliveries, was replete with some of the cleanest striking a cricket ball has been subjected to.

The express pace and extra bounce of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, the challenging angle of Lonwabo Tsotsobe and the spin of Johan Botha and Robin Peterson were all dismantled with subliminal timing and tremendous power as Pathan sent the South Africans scurrying for cover.

Pathan has reinvented himself as a hard-hitting lower-order batsman, deriving motivation from being left out of the national side after the World T20 in the Caribbean last summer. “The colour went out of my life,” he said, only in jest, as he swapped the India Blue for whites while representing Baroda in domestic cricket. “I realised that the only way back for me was to work on my fitness and my cricket. It was all in my hands, and I didn’t want to let the opportunity go.”

A trimmer and meaner figure now, Pathan is a lot more comfortable against the short ball, though there is still some way to go before he is the finished product. Earlier, he used to take his eyes off the ball and pop his bat up in protection; during this series, he has shown a welcome propensity to put a price on his scalp, unafraid to take blows on his body in a bid to protect his wicket.

His blistering 105 on Sunday contained eight fours and eight towering sixes; each blow took India closer home, each stroke sending shivers down the collective spine of Graeme Smith’s unit as the one-day series continued its fascinatingly fluctuating ways.

There was no fairytale ending to the dream knock as Pathan was ninth man dismissed, with 49 still required for victory. India quickly folded up for 234 chasing 268; South Africa’s 33-run win gave them the series 3-2, but on a day when Hashim Amla made his seventh one-day hundred, there was no doubting who wowed the packed gathering at SuperSport Park.

Early last month, Pathan turned the corner with an equally sensational maiden hundred against New Zealand, at the Chinnaswamy stadium. He followed it up with a brilliant 59 in Cape Town last week to haul India out of the woods and convert near-certain defeat into a stirring victory.

On Sunday, he became the first batsman in the history of limited-overs internationals to score two hundreds batting at number seven. There is little to suggest, given his refreshingly positive and unassuming attitude, that he will stop at two.

His commanding presence opens up whole new avenues for India as the World Cup beckons. India are a much stronger force with their battering ram at number seven, a fact that will be viewed with some trepidation and circumspection by the rest of the cricketing world.

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