SARAH WARIS | 14 APRIL, 2018
The Rise And Fall Of Yusuf Pathan
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and entrances…”
When William Shakespeare penned down his now-famous lines in his play As you Like It, little would he have known that the quotation recited by Jacques would go on to hold such a meaningful place amongst the audiences a few centuries later. By describing the stages of human existence, the renowned playwright scripted a parable on life and death; on human vigour and zeal; on success and failure and the eventual foray into the unknown after having enjoyed considerable years basking in the glory.
The sporting sphere not only abides by Shakespeare’s philosophy, but it also emphatically lives up to the phases that have been written down. A sportsman enters the arena as a “young infant” - inexperienced and immature and over the course of his journey grows from an innocent player into a responsible member in his team. With time, due to the forces of nature, he has to let go of his zest to become a shadow of his past, until eventually he leaves the circuit for newer legs to gush forth.
Yusuf Pathan, the burly cricketer, when looking back on his ten-year journey in the Indian Premier League will not only be able to relate to the quoted sentences, he will also be forced to sit back and ponder at how his career went from an overdose of maniac superstardom to a quieter existence, where he started losing the trust and the confidence of all those around him. The fact that it took less than ten years to go from a hero to an inconsistent personality only makes the rise and fall of Yusuf all the more dramatic.
Entering the big, bad world of cricket in the T20 World Cup finals in 2007 against Pakistan, Yusuf, the elder brother of Irfan Pathan, impressed one and all in his short stay at the crease that had fetched 15 runs. However, his moment under the sun only arrived under the tutelage of Shane Warne in the first season of the Indian Premier League, and the next three seasons flew by like a dream. Sans much responsibility and without the baggage of expectations, Yusuf burst out from his cocoon to smash 435 runs in 16 matches, with a strike-rate of 179, including 25 massive sixes. His form and Warne’s astute captaincy drove the underrated team to victory and made the inexperienced Yusuf into a craze, with an Indian call-up not far away.
2009 was a comparatively bland outing and his average of 20.25 failed to live up to the hype that he had created a year earlier. However, the disappointment was short-lived indeed, as he marked his arrival in 2010 with a 37-ball 100 against Mumbai Indians. With the team struggling at 37 for 3, Yusuf walked in to show them all of his worth once more and hence, when the Kolkata Knight Riders bought him for USD 2 million in 2011, it was finally hoped that the perennially bottom-placed side would break the shackles to carve out a memorable few seasons ahead.
However, just like the “lover” in Shakespeare's quotation, who succumbs into irresponsibility, Yusuf too, walked a similar path. Blinded by the aura around him and even bogged down by the hopes, the Baroda-all-rounder could manage runs at an average of 28.30, with a strike-rate of 140.79. Next season it was even worse - an average of 19.40 and a rate of 114.79 indicated some serious issues, and with even his bowling losing the steam (he picked up 13 wickets in 2011 to make up for his failing batting prowess), Yusuf was silently walking towards the door of oblivion.
However, he did give sparks of his previous self, with a 21-ball 40 that guided KKR to the finals in 2012 for the very first time. From an irresponsible and a “whining schoolboy”, Yusuf had been transformed into a “soldier” who had to try hard to replicate his dignity and his reputation in front of others around him. Gambhir, who had remained the cricketer’s sole support even when he had been failing miserably was visibly stoked at his return to form and proudly went on to proclaim that Yusuf remained a magical player. "I was asked why I persist with Yusuf Pathan. I have always said that he is a magical player and that he will come good when it would matter the most.”
Maybe it was complacency or just the inability to adapt convincingly to the changing dynamics of T20s that forced the right-hander to swing further and further away from his heydays. After a few impressive games in the Indian colours, he lost his spot in the national team and just when he had hoped for a successful tenure in the IPL that would get back his spot, he gave in to immature play and one after the other, failed to get going in the big-games, when KKR really needed its senior player to rise to the occasion. He failed to contribute in the 2012 finals, even when the team needed 27 in 18 deliveries - a situation that would have been ideal for Yusuf to flex his muscles a few seasons earlier. In 2013, he was out obstructing the field in a crucial match, when KKR had their hopes pinned on Yusuf with 23 in 13 still needed for a win. With no batsmen left in the pavilion, Gambhir paid the price for trusting his Lieutenant a tad too much.
And now, as things stand, Yusuf stands on possibly the last stage of his cricketing career- his reputation in tatters and his skills seriously questionable. Gambhir, who had played him in 106 games was left bitterly disappointed by his mainstay as his stint with KKR fetched 1893 runs at an average of 34.61 with just 7 fifties and this bitterness was on full display when the captain took the harsh route and dropped Yusuf from the crucial Qualifier 2 against Mumbai Indians last year. In his “last scene” of his career, Yusuf stands on the periphery and his eleventh season in the IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad will decide whether he will walk into the horizon a player who rectified his flaws or one who basked in the accolades albeit a short while before returning well and truly into the zone of oblivion.