New Delhi: Back in the spotlight after his awe-inspiring knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad, swashbuckling KKR batsman Yusuf Pathan attributed his success to team’s bowling coach Wasim Akram who has helped him understand the psyche of opposition bowlers.
Yusuf, who smashed a scintillating 22-ball 72 to power Kolkata Knight Riders to finish second in the league table, said he “never went out of business” and was just “a little unlucky” as all cricketers go through such phases in their career. He said the team’s bowling coach Akram’s advice was of great help to him to prepare mentally. “Wasim Bhai is a great inspiration and he has a lot of good advice from all his experience that any player can learn from. He has helped me with the mental preparation and understanding a bowler’s mindset to the game,” Pathan told PTI in an interview.
Needing 161 in under 15 overs to book a second spot ahead of the play-offs, Yusuf struck four fours and seven sixes to take the Eden Gardens by storm and put KKR behind Kings XI Punjab. Yusuf, 31, described the effort as his best IPL knock. “Definitely, because of the circumstances going into the match and also the value of the result to my team,” said the Baroda bomber.
After a forgettable last season, Yusuf struggled for form for a good part of IPL-7 but has regained lost touch in the last few games. Yusuf partially answered his critics with a composed 39 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and then a small but significant 22 against Royal Challengers Bangalore before the Eden outing. Asked about whether vintage Yusuf is back in business, he said,
“I never thought he went out of business. He was just a little unlucky and all cricketers go through phases in their career. I am just happy to have been able to contribute to my team,” he said. Yusuf, who completed his half-century in a record 15 deliveries, was especially severe on South African quick Dale Steyn — hitting the pacer for three fours and two six in the 12th over to take home the momentum.
The elder of the Pathan brothers however, denied targeting any particular bowler and said he wanted to dominate all of them. “I was just looking to attack all the bowlers as we had to do so in order to finish in the top two. The main aim was to do that so I was just looking to dominate all the bowlers,” he said.
Yusuf though got out in the 13th over off Karn Sharma but he had done the damage as SA Yadav hit the winning six in the very next over to take KKR into the playoffs as the number two side. The over-the-top celebration that followed was very unlike Yusuf but the shy player said that it was an emotional outburst. “It was a celebration of pure emotion and ecstasy of having chased down a big target in the minimal amount of overs,” said Yusuf.
Asked about what triggered the turnaround for KKR after a poor run in the first leg of the tournament, Yusuf said, “This is a good team but also a new team. Sometimes it takes time for a new team to come together and start performing. We always were confident that the results would come because the talent and experience is there.”
Yusuf, who has represented India in 57 ODIs and 22 T20s, has been out of favour since March 2012 but said that playing for the nation was his ultimate goal and hoped that if he continues to perform, he will be able to play for the country again. Reminded that Shane Warne used him with great effect at the top of the order, Yusuf said, “I am happy batting anywhere across the line-up as long as I am able to contribute to the team. What the team requires and decides I am happy to go along with.”
Talking about his equation with younger brother Irfan, Yusuf said, “As a family, you are always looking to support each other and the best part is that with Irfan I have someone who understands the feelings related to the game. We are always there to support each other and give advice if required.” Asked to choose between Gambhir or Warne who would as the better leader, Yusuf said “I cannot pick one as both are very special to me in different ways. Both are extremely good leaders in their own way and I am very grateful to both.”