Prize allrounder Yusuf Pathan's moment of truth is just around the corner. He has come long way from the days when he made his bones with the Baroda side in Ranji Trophy to joining the big boys possibly on the biggest stage of them all - the World Cup. He is the latest edition in India's brief history of power-hitters. Following in the wake of the likes of Kris Srikanth and Kapil Dev, Yusuf has proved time and again that he has what it takes to muscle the ball to the boundary and over it.
But the fourth one-dayer against New Zealand at Bangalore demonstrated all to clearly that he has tempered that ability with a fine temperament. His 123 off 96 balls in a match-saving and match-winning innings showed that he plays with the character of a truly professional middle order batsmen. He can balance the roles of stabliser and big-hitter with deft ease, knowing when to hold back and went to pull out all the stops. As the adage in cricket goes "timing is everything" and Pathan knows how to time his shots as well as pace his innings to perfection.
Showering praise on Yusuf, India's bowling consultant Erin Simmons rightly said, "Lots of people talk about Yusuf's power but what excited me more was his temperament between the boundaries," Simons said. "That is something he has added to his repertoire and augurs well for him as a number seven batsmen." Yusuf was able to smother all the attacking strategies the New Zealanders subjected him to the puenultimate match of the series. He negotiated the bouncers and yorkers with effortless ease, while punishing the over-pitched deliveries with lusty relish.
It has definitely been a long journey for Yusuf up to this point. He had been playing professional cricket for nearly a decade before he got a call up from the national selectors. He first rose to prominence as a premier batsman and off-break bowler for the Baroda Under-16 team in the Vijay Merchant Trophy in the 1999-2000 season. He dazzled local selectors enough to send him up a few rungs to the Baroda Under-19 and West Zone Under-19 sides. But it wasn't till 2001-02 that he made his debut with Baroda in the Ranji Trophy. From there, it took nearly 7 years for him to break into the national side, watching his brother - Irfan - make the big team, en route.
Yusuf had an inauspicious one-day debut. In a crucial match against Pakistan during the Kitply Cup tournament in Bangladesh, he was able to score all of 3 runs. But the team's three big guns - Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh - all fired, ultimately taking tha match by 140 runs and ensuring that Yusuf's dud would be overlooked. But since that first outing, he has come up with a fairly consistent run, averaging 29.33 with the bat in a total of 42 matches.
A few months earlier, he played his first Twenty20 International with India against Pakistan in the final of the 2007 T20 World Cup. Again, he didn't make much of an impact, getting dismissed for just 15. His track record since then in Twenty20 Internationals has not been particularly impressive with an average of 18.63. Pathan may be one player whose potential outstrips his performances. But he is certainly on the way to meeting his potential.