Yusuf Pathan's bittersweet experience as captain
After being plagued by injury, Baroda captain Irfan Pathan returned to lead Baroda to the Ranji Trophy quarters. Now that Baroda's season is all but over Yusuf's stint as captain could, at best, be described as bittersweet, writes Bikash Mohapatra.
When Yusuf Pathan was named captain of Baroda at the start of the Ranji season, there were a lot of expectations.
The former champions had failed to make it to the knock-out stages in the previous season and their shoddy performance resulted in the sacking of the then captain, Pinal Shah.
Now that Baroda's season is all but over -- it is highly unlikely (read impossible) that they will overturn Mumbai's massive advantage -- Yusuf's stint as captain could, at best, be described as bittersweet.
Baroda performed way better than they had in the previous season, finishing second, behind Uttar Pradesh, in Group B -- a tough group that included former champions like Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu -- losing only one match (to UP), and qualifying for the knock-out stages.
However, Yusuf led them only in the first two of those outings, against Karnataka and Vidharba. Both the matches ended as draws, but Baroda picked six points, with Yusuf playing a lead role with both bat (78) and ball (two wickets) against Vidharba.
Having been forced to sit out with an injury, his deputy Ambati Rayudu led Baroda to the knock-out stages in his absence.
Back as captain in the quarter-final clash against Mumbai, Yusuf could do little as the 39-time champions stayed on course for a semi-final berth.
Not that the player had any regrets.
"I am quite satisfied with the team's performance," said Yusuf, when asked to analyse the season.
Image: Yusuf Pathan
Photographs: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images
'I am satisfied with the team's effort this season'
"It's a young team," he continued, adding, "We didn't have experienced bowlers to restrict them (Mumbai) to a total of under 400 or so. Still I would say that the bowlers did a decent job.
"As regards our batting, it didn't go about the way we had expected it.
"There's a lot to learn for us, ahead of the next season. There are many players in our team who are appearing in the quarter-finals for the first time. This match is a great learning experience for them, as to how to play in the knock-out stages in the coming years.
"They will realise if they have to reach to a certain level they will have to approach the game in a certain manner.
"I am satisfied with the team's effort this season. We did quite well as a group."
Asked about his captaincy, the 30-year-old expressed satisfaction.
"I am happy with my captaincy, because my team is happy with it," said Yusuf.
"Whenever I find the players happy in the dressing room it gives me a sense of contentment," he added.The former India player, who last donned national colours in March last year, said there will be no regrets if Baroda go out despite having come this far.
Image: Yusuf Pathan
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
'Our bowlers lacked experience in this match'
"If we lose this match there would be no regrets. I would say we have done well, with whatever resources we had at our disposal," explained Yusuf, adding, "We put in our best effort in every match.
"We tried to win every match we played.
"In this match (against Mumbai) our bowlers lacked the experience. Gagandeep [Singh] isn't that experienced but does well if there is help in the wicket, something that wasn't the case here.
"Murtuja [Vahora] is the only bowler we were counting upon to give us breakthroughs, and he took four wickets. If we had a couple of more bowlers we would definitely have done better.
"Still, I would say as a bowling unit we did well in this match, considering we were playing against a big team. Our bowlers managed to restrict their batsmen in many sessions."
Having been dismissed playing a rash shot at a crucial juncture, Yusuf had no regrets about that as well.
"I played my natural game," he said, adding, "Had I remained unbeaten the pressure would have been on the opposing team."But I played with a positive mindset, considering wickets were falling at the other end, and got out."
Image: Yusuf Pathan
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images