Since Kapil Dev, India hasn\'t found a player to play the all-rounder\'s role to perfection.
New Delhi: The Pathan household at Baroda no longer lives in the gloom surrounding Irfan's ouster from Team India as the elder son Yusuf has taken charge and is ready to slog it out for India in the World Cup.
The new year has brought only good news for them. While the family got richer by around Rs. 18 crore by way of the brothers' IPL signings, Yusuf got the nod in India's 15-man World Cup squad.
Now that he is in the team, the 'Baroda marauder' has taken on the mantle at that crucial No. 7 spot that has for long been the Achilles' heel for Team India.
While No. 7 is many different things to many different people - seven wonders, seven seas, seven continents, seven swaras in Indian music - it remains a pivotal batting position in the game of cricket.
The player who comes in at this number can be seen as a real game-changer. He is the one who makes a difference of those crucial 20-30 runs in the slog overs and if wickets fall early, he has to carry the team to bat out the complete quota of 50 overs.
With less than a fortnight left to the start of the most-awaited ICC event - the World Cup, let's take a look at a few classy players who bat at this position and how they can turn a match on its head.
Yusuf Pathan (India): Yusuf has turned himself into a world-class game-changer, more off late with his two ODI centuries than before, when he was considered an IPL wonder only. He is the kind of player who can take any bowling attack apart, anywhere in the world and he gave an example of this with his second ODI century in demanding conditions in South Africa. The IPL turned out to be the perfect launch pad for Yusuf's career and he has made use of that experience brilliantly in the ODIs. He could be a decisive weapon in India's arsenal in this World Cup. Not forgetting his useful off-spinners, Yusuf's batting at No. 7 holds the key while setting and chasing big targets.
Kieron Pollard (West Indies): One of the deadliest batsmen in the slog overs, he has the ability to put bowlers into submission. He does not wait for the ball to be pitched in his zone and can send even the good-length deliveries into the orbit. If this 23-year-old hits the right note, a lot of teams could be seen running for cover. He will be a key weapon for a Windies side that's not even a silhouette of their invincible status of the 70s. If Pollard can show his T20 form in the World Cup, he can take West Indies the full distance. Apart from being very dangerous with the willow, Pollard is equally good with the leather in his hands.
Shahid Afridi (Pakistan): This all-rounder became a household name after his very first match. Shahid Afridi announced his arrival in international cricket with a sensational 37-ball century versus Sri Lanka at Nairobi in 1996 when he was just 17. He holds the highest career strike rate in the history of international cricket and that is enough to say what he can do batting at number 7. While he is a compulsive basher, the responsibility of leading the team may help him channel that aggression to work in his team's favour. While off late his leg-spinners have made more news than his batting, Pakistan would want their skipper to go 'Boom Boom'.
Paul Collingwood (England): He is struggling with his form lately and announced retirement from Test cricket but Collingwood's ability goes without doubt. He is one of the most experienced players in England's lineup and has to lead from the front in the mega event. He is not the biggest hitter of the ball but can make it count when the team needs it the most. He also has the knack of timing his innings to perfection, which makes him an ideal pick at No. 7, though Strauss keeps using him as a floater in the batting order. A lot will depend on him if England has to go deep into the World Cup.
Angelo Matthews (Sri Lanka): One of the promising all-rounders in the world at present, Mathews is one of the most important cogs in Sri Lanka's ODI wheels. A right-hand batsmen who cherishes batting at No. 7, Mathews is a busy player who always keeps the scoreboard ticking and is capable of playing the lusty blows if the need arises. His useful seam-up stuff also gives Kumar Sangakkara an option of playing an extra spinner in the side.