On Saturday, the gum-chewing, cool and nonchalant senior Pathan put bowlers on notice. He demonstrated at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai what they can expect from his willow in the third edition of the IPL that took off from the D Y Patil Stadium on Friday.
Walking into a near-hopeless situation, he smashed a 37-ball 100 at an astonishing strike rate of 270 that included 9 hits to the boundary and 8 sailing over the boundary.
There was no way his side could have lost by a narrow margin of 4 runs if only he was there to finish the chase of Mumbai Indians’ 212 for 6. He got out only the way he could have been — a freak run-out in the 18th over when his team’s score was 173.
In the process, he rightfully claimed the record of hitting the fastest hundred in IPL, bettering another greater hitter of the ball, Adam Gilchrist’s 42-ball effort. Only Andrew Symonds, who cracked a 34-ball century for Kent against Middlesex six seasons back, has reached three figures quicker, but even the giant Australian would have nodded in appreciative admiration at the manner in which Pathan lay into the bowling.
It would be a gross understatement to say he was destructive. His presence was intimidating to the opponents. Rival skipper Sachin Tendulkar was getting tense and running out of ideas as the murderous Pathan was plundering runs at will from Mumbai Indians’ bowlers.
After the match, Warne said this was one of the best knocks he had seen in his 21-year career. Before coming into this match, Pathan had already stunned the followers of the game with his phenomenal batting in the Duleep Trophy final in Hyderabad just six weeks ago in which he helped West Zone to record an improbable win over South Zone chasing a mammoth target of 536, a record-winning chase in the history of first class cricket.
He had scored an unbeaten 210, hitting 19 fours and ten sixes. In the first innings of the match, too, he had scored a hundred with 12 fours and 5 sixes. Of course, in his case, the strike rate has to be as always over 100.
“I knew if I was there we can chase that total although it may be a Herculean task,” Pathan had said with confidence after that successful chase on February 6. Should he carry this form to the coming World Twenty20 tournament in May, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni might yet be holding aloft the World Twenty20 crown for the second time in three years!