New Delhi: Having played the unusual role of a sheet anchor for KKR this IPL, swashbuckling all-rounder Yusuf Pathan has said his big-hitting skills are intact but he has tweaked his style as a conscious decision to help the team get over the line.
Having accumulated 216 runs in 11 matches so far, Yusuf has played the supporting role to many a Kolkata Knight Riders batsman in this season. A definite drift from the pivotal role he played in the title triumph last year, but Yusuf is content playing as a team man. “There is a conscious effort to stay at the crease and build the innings. The hitting is still very much there but in between I am trying to play sensible cricket. I am putting on a smart approach by looking for singles and twos as well. I am always on the lookout for partnerships and maximise my effort to help the team win as many games,” Yusuf told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“I am trying to ensure that the team does not have to face many difficulties in the victories. I was dejected with the way I got out against Kings XI Punjab and had I stayed in the middle we could have won more comfortably. So I am laying stress on all these small things. I play my attacking game whenever it is required and also mix it with sensible play and then change gears whenever needed,” he added. Yusuf’s uncharacteristic style of play took everybody by surprise, but Yusuf insists that it was his personal decision to take the field in a different ‘avatar’ this time around.
“Of course it was my personal decision to tweak my style of play and then the team also felt that I should adapt to my new style without curbing my natural instincts. I realised that I should stay on the wicket for long and support a batsman who is batting well, rather than get out while playing my attacking game. “And thankfully the move is paying rich dividends. Every run, every ball counts in T20 cricket. Partnerships are crucial to bring one’s team back in a game,” said the 32-year-old player.
In fact, the big-hitter is happy that Andre Russell, who has hit three fifties this season and is batting at a strike rate of 197.93, has played his part in this edition for the Gautam Gambhir-led side, while he is enjoying taking the back seat. “I am very happy that Andre is playing my earlier role. I am under less pressure than I was earlier. It feels good that there is a player whom the team and I could rely on in times of trouble. I am happy playing the supporting role. Remember it’s a team game and you feel nice when your partner or team does well, irrespective of your performance,” said Yusuf.
Hit or flop, the team management always swears by Yusuf as Gambhir and bowling coach Wasim Akram have termed the all-rounder as their ‘trump card’, who has something big in store in the upcoming games. I guess, I have performed for the team time and again and that is the reason people in my team have trust in me. This season, there has not been a big innings from me but I have contributed in my own small way. The team is also attaining comfortable scores. But I hope that I come up with something big at a crucial time for KKR,” he said.
“I am thankful to my mentors, Wasim bhai and my captain Gautam Gambhir. Even our coach – Trevor Bayliss – and Jacques Kallis have taught me a lot and have made me get to the next level. Like what I learnt being with Rajasthan Royals under Shane Warne, I have had some wonderful experiences with KKR in all these years as I play my fifth season with them. I am enjoying my cricket,” he added. Still trying to make a return to Indian colours – he last played for the national team in 2012 – Yusuf is surely treating IPL as a comeback tool with an eye on the T20 World Championship next year.
“My aim is to make a comeback to the Indian team, in T20 and in ODIs and I am working towards it. My hunger to return o the international scene is growing everyday. I am working hard to achieve my goal and Inshallah I will get the opportunity soon. “The hard work is also paying off. And I will try and grab every opportunity that will come my way while eyeing the T20 World Cup next year,” he signed off.