A few of days before the Indian squad left for their New Zealand tour, NDTV's Afshan Anjum caught up with the cricket duo of Yusuf and Irfan Pathan, to know about their plans, dreams and sibling rivalry.
Excerpts from the interview:
Afshan Anjum:Did you guys ever imagine that you would tour New Zealand together as part of the Indian team?
Irfan:I don't really remember if we thought about it but yes we knew someday we would play for India. But this is a very good opportunity and our confidence levels are pretty high.
AA: Yusuf, it's an interesting scenario for both of you. The New Zealand grounds are smaller in comparison and you can very well go for your lofty sixes?
Yusuf: Well, right now all I want to do is go there and adapt to the conditions as soon as possible.
AA: Irfan, is it true that New Zealand pitches are a dream to bowl on for every swing bowler?
Irfan: I have toured New Zealand before with the Under-19 team. And when you visit a country where you get help in swing, then you try to exploit it to your advantage.
AA: The New Zealand team boasts of many all-rounders. Now even you guys are all-rounders. So, do you discuss about the expectations and responsibilities?
Yusuf: Yeah! We do. We are aware of the expectations of the people and the team. Even we have high hopes of contributing in every possible way to our team's success. We know an all-rounder has an important role to play and we both have the ability to contribute with the bat and the ball.
AA: What do you think will be the key to success in New Zealand, batting or bowling?
Yusuf: I think you can't win relying on just one of them. We'll have to do better in all three aspects - batting, bowling and fielding.
AA: Interestingly, none of your IPL teams hade any Kiwi player.
Irfan: That's true. But my team (Kings XI Punjab) had Kyle Mills. However, he didn't play much. But we have been following New Zealand cricket, so we do have some idea about their players' game.
Also, pitches will play a crucial role. Last time when India toured New Zealand, they had green wickets. This time I don't think they will give us similar wickets because they realize that we have one of the best pace-attack in the world. Rest we'll discuss in team meetings and study the conditions.
AA: Yusuf, the last one-year has been really happening for both you brothers. For you in particular, IPL brought a complete change in people's perception. What impact did that leave on you?
Yusuf: After IPL's success, I feel more confident of my abilities.
AA: Yusuf has really grown in stature in the past few months and at times he proved that he was your Big Brother. What's your take on that?
Irfan: Of course, that makes me really happy and proud. I had said three years back that he was a better player than me but people thought I was praising him simply because he was my brother.
Even at home, he has the maximum support. (Cheekily) I need to change that a bit. But if the same happens on the field, that really will give me a lot of happiness. He is the good boy of the family who takes care of everyone and everything.
AA: So there is no sibling rivalry because there were occasions when Yusuf was playing and Irfan wasn't despite being the senior player?
Yusuf: These things happen. But Irfan is mentally very strong. He was confident that he'd make a comeback.
Irfan: Once when a squad was announced, I just read Pathan and became happy. But later I realized it was Yusuf. So though I was disappointed on missing out, I was happy that Yusuf was there. It would be wrong if I say that I am happy by just watching him play because I want to see myself play as well.
But, jealousy or rivalry are wrong words to describe it. It's a great honour to have two players representing India from the same family. We might not understand its significance now, but after we quit this game this feeling will sink in.
AA: That's about playing in one team. You both have played against each other in the IPL. So, do you guys reveal each other's secrets in team meetings?
Yusuf: Of course, I know about his game and that was my role in the meeting (both brothers laugh).
Irfan: You know, throughout the tournament we were in constant touch with each other but never did we discuss about our teams and meetings. It doesn't matter if you are brothers, relatives, or best friends. It's your prime duty to be honest to your team.
Yusuf: Yeah, we did reveal each other's secrets to our teams but not to each other . (laughs)
AA: Yusuf, people say it's Shane Warne who brought out that aggression in you. How true is that?
Yusuf: He's a great cricketer with vast experience. He has this ability to quickly understand the potential of a player.
AA: On a lighter note, Irfan has a huge female fan following. What about you Yusuf?
Yusuf: (Laughs shyly) I really don't know.
Irfan: He has a good following. Recently, our mother was reading all those fan mails. I was sitting out with my friends when she suddenly called me. She said, 'Look here! There was a time when I used to read letters that talked just about you. Girls wrote only to you, now letters are coming for my elder son as well.' I asked if it was a marriage proposal. She said, 'No but a girl is asking for his number.' (Bursts into laughter).