Yusuf Pathan rated his 22-ball 72 for the Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday higher than his 37-ball hundred for the Rajasthan Royals back in 2010 because this one helped the Knight Riders defeat Sunrisers Hyderabad by four wickets and finish second in the group stages. (KKR vs SRH: As it happened | Match Report)
KKR's top two finish means they get two cracks at the final and Yusuf, who bagged the Man of the Match award seemed elated that this monstrous effort helped his team of four years finish the league stage on a high: "My hundred for the Royals was also a very good innings but if I have to compare, this knock would rate as the best I have ever played. Back then I was run-out and could not win the match for my team, unlike tonight."
Yusuf walked in to bat with KKR on 55/2 in the 8th over and it the course of his stay, it also looked like the hosts would struggle to win the game, let alone reach the target of 161 in 15.2 overs. But thanks to the seven sixes by the burly Baroda batsman, KKR got there in 14.2, a whole over early.
Yusuf has come under harsh criticism for often getting out at crucial junctures, playing rash shots. He was not retained by the 2012 champions, who used their 'Right to Match' card to bag him in the player auctions this year and it turned out to be a great buy.
Undeterred by varying opinions on him, Yusuf said he only played the way the team needed him to: "I have never really been worried about losing my wicket. I play to win, I play for my team and if I get out in the process, then so be it. I don't care about what people say."
The 31-year-old discard, who became a father earlier in this tournament, said he hit form at the right time: "I hit form at the right time. It's a great feeling when the ball hits the middle of the bat and goes a long way into the stands."
Yusuf had managed only140 runs from nine innings before this game and the 72 was his joint highest over the last two years. In 2013, Yusuf had scored 72 but that had come in a losing cause.
Yusuf's knock, in fact, drew high praise from Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir, who has himself played several match-winning knocks for KKR and India
"I have never seen an innings like Yusuf's and I don't think I ever will. I have only dreamt of such a knock but I saw it in reality tonight." Gambhir said at the post-match presentation.
Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Darren Sammy, who was deflated after his team was knocked out of the IPL, said: "I wish I could play shots like Yusuf; what a phenomenal hitter he is. All credit to Yusuf for going on the way he did."