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I can win a match from any position: Pathan

Last updated on: February 10, 2011 09:32 IST

'I have started believing in myself more after SA tour'

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Yusuf Pathan is the Indian cricket's team most-feared player. The 'Baroda blaster' sends a shiver down the spine of bowlers the moment he walks out to bat. His ability to clear the boundary at will makes him the scourge of all teams.

In late 2009 he was dropped from the ODI team after a string of poor performances and his place taken by Ravindra Jadeja. But the 28-year-old made a sensational comeback, slamming two quickfire centuries and a fifty in four innings since returning to the side for the home series against New Zealand and South Africa tour after excellent performances in domestic cricket. Now, going into the World Cup, he is undoubtedly one of the players to watch out for.

The right-hander has 693 runs in 45 ODIs -- a strike rate of 115.09, the second best career strike rate in the history ODIs, putting him ahead of the likes of Shahid Afridi and Virender Sehwag.

In a freewheeling interview with Senior Associate Editor Harish Kotian, the all-rounder provides insights into his big-hitting prowess and return to form.

You are in magical touch, as witnessed in the ODI series against New Zealand and South Africa. How confident are you feeling heading into the World Cup?

I am feeling very confident. I am in a positive frame of mind and my confidence is very high. I have started believing in myself more after the South Africa tour.

How important was that match-winning century against New Zealand in Bangalore for your career? You had just made a comeback into the Indian team?

It was a very important knock for my career. I came in to bat when the Indian team was in trouble, so I felt good when I scored a century and took my team to victory.


Image: Yusuf Pathan

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'The No 6 or 7 is key batting position in Powerplay'

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Do you believe that you can win a match from any position if your batting clicks? No one can forget that IPL match in Mumbai, when you hit a 37-ball century, including 11 consecutive hit to the boundaries, or the centuries against New Zealand and South Africa.

Yes, I have my full faith in my abilities and I believe that I can win a match from any position. I never give up hope, because a match can turn from any situation. I back myself to take my team to victory even if they are down and out.

What approach does a batsman batting at No. 6 or 7 follow? You hardly get any time to settle down and have to attack either in the Batting Powerplay or the final overs?

It is not easy to bat at that position, because you have just a few overs to bat wherein you have to score maximum runs. On most occasions you come out to bat in the Batting Powerplay, so you have utilize it to the maximum by going for your shots straightaway.

So there are times when you are successful; sometimes you get out early in an attempt to get the big shots. So the number six or seven is a very key batting position, because if one batsman gets going it makes a difference to the total.

The Batting Powerplay has become very important for the batting team as you really change a match in those five overs. Mostly, you will see the teams have lost nearly 4-5 wickets when they take that Powerplay around the 40th or the 45th over. They want the lower order to get as many runs as possible by hitting a lot of boundaries in those five overs. If you get 50 or 60 runs in the Powerplay, then it changes the game considerably and you also manage to grab the momentum.

Image: Yusuf Pathan

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'I am feeling good at having made such a successful comeback'

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How much do work on your strokeplay in the nets? Most of the time when you attempt a big shot it clears the boundary easily?

I don't practice the big shots at all in the nets. All my focus in the nets is on defensive shots since I want to improve my technique. So, during the net sessions, you will only see me hit the ball all along the ground to try and get my technique correct.

Rarely I attempt playing the big shots in the nets, because playing the big shots come naturally to me; I don't need to practice it regularly.

What would you say is your biggest strength?

Everyone knows what my strengths are. I believe that I can win a match from any position; that is my biggest strength.

You were dropped from the side in late 2009 but forced your way back by scoring a lot of runs in domestic cricket and carried that form to the Indian team. Were you able to identify what went wrong? You seem unstoppable at the moment with the bat after making a comeback during the New Zealand series?

I don't think there was anything wrong. Before I was dropped, if you see the matches I hardly got time to bat and usually I had only 5-10 overs at my disposal. But, recently, I got a lot of time to spend at the wicket and I could work on building my innings.

I have not changed my approach or anything; it is only that I got more overs to bat. So, the more time you get to spend at the wicket, the better it is for you; then you don't need to go for your shots straightaway. I am feeling very good at having made such a successful comeback into the Indian team. I hope to continue my good performances in the World Cup too.


Image: Yusuf Pathan

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'I am more patient now'

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Have you also worked on your shot selection after being dropped? After your comeback you seem to be more confident when playing the big shots?

Yes, I definitely work a lot on my shot selection as it is important to select the right ball to play your shots. I am more patient now and I don't mind playing the waiting game. This is something that has changed in my batting approach.

This is possible because I am getting more time to spend time at the wicket. When you have time in hand you are ready to wait for the right deliveries to hit.

Is there any specific type of delivery that you prefer to have a go at? I it pre-meditated that you will hit the next ball into the stands wherever it is pitched?

It is not that I prefer a certain type of delivery to attempt the big shots. If I feel that this delivery I can hit for a boundary or a six, then I go after it. When you get settled at the wicket you feel more confident and then it comes automatically to you as to which deliveries you want to take on. I don't wait for a certain delivery to for my shots;it all depends on how I am batting at the moment.


Image: Yusuf Pathan

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'I find all bowlers difficult to bat against'

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But your favourite area is the leg side; nearly 80 percent of the 36 sixes you have hit in ODIs are through midwicket or the long-on area. Isn't it?

Yes, you are right. I hit a lot of my sixes through that region.

But I don't always look to hit through that area. I can also hit through point, cover or square leg region; it is just that it depends on what delivery is bowled to me. At the end of the day, I look to score runs. It doesn't matter where I score them from.

Virender Sehwag once said that he could hit any bowler for a boundary at will, except Muttiah Muralitharan and Glenn McGrath. Which bowlers you faced are the most difficult to hit for boundaries?

I find all the bowlers difficult to bat against.

But we don't get that impression when you are batting in the middle?

All the bowlers in international cricket are difficult. You have to be really strong and concentrate, else a small mistake can cause your dismissal. So, scoring runs is never easy against any bowler in international cricket. You really have to work hard for each and every run in international cricket, because the opposition is constantly coming up with plans. We also have to plan and adjust accordingly.


Image: Yusuf Pathan

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'I hope to live up to everyone's expectations'

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You are also a handy contributor with the ball. Many times you have even come to bowl in the Powerplay overs. How much do you work on your bowling?

I don't get much chance in the match to bowl, but I work a lot on my bowling in the nets. We have so many great batsmen in our Indian team, so you get to learn a lot when you bowl against them in the nets. So I look to bowl a lot against them in the nets and improve my bowling.

Kapil Dev, who won India's only World Cup in 1983, said Yusuf Pathan is the player he feels will make an impact in the 2011 World Cup. Similarly, all cricket fans in India believe that you will play a crucial role for India in the tournament. How does it feel when people have so much expectation from you?

It feels good so many people are backing me and want me to do well at the World Cup. What more can a cricketer ask for?

I am feeling very confident because the blessing of the whole country is with me and all the former cricketers are also expecting me to do well.

I hope to do well at the World Cup and live up to everyone's expectations.

India is touted as one top favourites at the World Cup, having the advantage of playing at home. Do you also believe we can win the World Cup?

I believe if we play to potential then no team can stop us from winning the World Cup. But it is not going to be easy, because, on their day, the other teams will also do well. So we need to focus on playing to our strengths. If our players can gel together as a unit then there is no stopping us.


Image: Yusuf Pathan

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