There was a time when Yusuf Pathan had an aura and a swagger. Chants of his name would go up in the stands whenever he would take crease,while on match eve his mere presence at the net session was enough to trigger excited anticipation among the onlookers. Those were the post-Indian Premier League 1 days,when the Baroda all-rounder had been just crowned as the first T20 superstar.
About a month before the IPL 5,a lot has changed; among other things,the status of the man who has found it tough to cement his place in Team Indias ODI squad. And that was apparent as Yusuf stood in the background as Indias batting elite of Sachin Tendulkar,Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli took guard at the nets on Sunday. Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina were next in line for the batting session but Yusuf didnt seem to know when he would get a chance to swing his bat.
Virender Sehwags inconsistent show all through the Australian tour has helped Yusuf make yet another comeback but,like in the past,he wasnt quite bringing along an air optimism in the Indian dressing room. As MS Dhoni prepares his team for the opening game against the in-form and favourites Sri Lanka he would have reasons to be skeptical about his batting line-up.
Except for Kohlis match winning 133 at Hobart two weeks back,there hadnt been too many batting highs Down Under.
The captain will be hoping that the only man in the batting line up who doesnt have the scars of the traumatic Australian tour,Yusuf,would lift the team. Sehwag is not playing this tournament but we have someone like Yusuf who can be an impact player down the order. I think there is an opportunity for someone like Yusuf in this tournament, Dhoni had said on Saturday.
In case Dhoni does decide to give Yusuf a place in the playing XI against Sri Lanka,he will have to keep out all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. And that will be a difficult dilemma. Yusuf,the batting all-rounder vs Jadeja,the bowling all-rounder will be a tough choice for Dhoni.
At the nets,Yusuf showed uncharacteristic caution. The big strikers restrained show during practice isnt necessarily an indication that his eight-month absence from the India team has had a calming effect on his batsmanship.
Pathan had clinched the No.7 slot for the World Cup with a 63-ball century against South Africa in a Twenty20 game. In the run-up to the quadrangular showcase event,Pathan and Jadeja were locked in a fierce battle for the one slot up for grabs but after that knock at Centurion the clear winner emerged.
What followed was an indifferent run of form from Yusuf. After throwing away chances during the World Cup and then following it up with a poor one-day series in the West Indies,Yusuf found himself relegated to domestic cricket.
A knee-injury incurred during fielding shortened his Ranji Trophy season but he timed his comeback century (114 vs. Saurashtra) during the Vijay Hazare Trophy to coincide with Indias slide in batting during the CB Series,which put him back on the selectors radar.
In a way,it is now or never for Yusuf. In case he doesnt deliver this time,he might be labeled just good for IPL and not good enough for ODI.
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