Yusuf Pathan, considered one of the biggest hitters of the cricket ball in India, played for Prime Bank Cricket Club in the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League 2017-18 season. The older brother of Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan, Yusuf has played many quickfire knocks over the course of his international and domestic career. Also an useful off-spinner, Yusuf gave an interview to Dhaka Tribune where he shared his thoughts on his playing career, his cricket academy, Indian cricket and his experiences of featuring in Bangladesh's domestic cricket arena, among other topics. Here are the excerpts:
Prior to this season, you also played in the DPL in 2016. What changes have you noticed among the local players in these two years?
It is difficult to say for me, because I haven’t looked as closely to compare. I only played two-three matches last time. I can surely say there’s talent here, which requires the right opportunity at the right time. Couple of guys bowled well in our nets. And as soon as I told Khaled [Mashud], he registered them for the league. Coaches here take talent very seriously, and help the players. It is a good sign for cricket.
What do you think is the biggest difference between the cricket culture in Bangladesh and India?
There’s obviously a difference in structure. BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) has done a lot for the Indian players. Every state has at least seven-eight grounds; Mumbai has around 50 grounds. Even Baroda and Maharashtra have plenty of facilities where you can play age-group cricket. BCCI has developed many grounds, which provides great practice and match facilities to the players.
Bangladesh, I think, have done laudable things for cricket. BKSP, Mirpur and Fatullah are good facilities.
In India, our pace bowlers bowl 35-40 overs in a match, while in Bangladesh, spinners bowl a similar number of overs. It is a huge difference in culture. The spinners don’t allow to get away with a lot of runs. Pitches are different in Bangladesh. Ball takes spin, despite there not being a lot of grass. It encourages both batsmen and bowlers. You must give credit to those who are preparing these good wickets.
Cricketers here should motivate themselves to go further, because they have the talent.
How did your career begin?
We started playing in the mosque and at a small ground near our house. My parents thought of sending us to cricket practice, so that we learn something good, and not fall for bad habits. They saw our passion for cricket. We started around the mid-1990s.
Whenever we go to the ground even today, we still have the passion as though we have just started playing the game. Look, we don’t know much else other than cricket.
Tell us about your cricket academy...
We have several branches of our academy all over India. It is called CAP (Cricket Academy of Pathans). We are providing kids those things which we didn’t know at the start of our career. How should they approach certain things and then become more professional. Wherever we play, we try to motivate our teammates.
You know it very well how our team was before I arrived. The boys were talking about relegation. They were down after losing four matches, so it was quite challenging to me. I spoke to some of the boys, and I motivated them. Now, the boys are talking about making it to the Super League.
Before Ariful [Haque] went off with the Bangladesh team, he was worried how we’d do against Abahani. I told him we’d win, and you will call me. We did our job. I always feel that I have to share my experience and get the team in a good position.
Prime Bank are a very serious club. Their preparation reflects their ambition. They are also quite serious on social media about all the players.
You are a big hitter yourself. Why do you think Bangladesh lack big hitters at the moment?
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Prime Bank's Indian recruit Yusuf shares his experience with his teammates during a training session[/caption]
I am quite impressed with many of the players. We have some players in our team who can go for big hits like [Sajjadul Haque] Ripon, Nahidul [Islam] and Delwar [Hossain]. One thing that is common when I speak to coaches and players here, is that players have a set mindset, which has been quite disappointing. These clubs spend a lot of money on these players, who shouldn’t worry about anything else. After getting a Premier League contract, the players should be motivated about making it big. They must be open-minded.
If someone tells me I should improve in a certain area, I will take that advice happily. I think most Indian cricketers have this attitude. I think it is a bit lacking here, at least from what the coaches are telling me. They tell me that the players are not prepared to listen. They feel they know what they have to do. I think it hurts cricket.
I think they should change this culture. They should be hungrier. Unless you open up your heart and mind, you will struggle at the highest level.
You smashed a century and a double hundred in the first and second innings respectively as your side, West Zone, registered a world record chase in the Duleep Trophy final against South Zone eight years ago. How did you feel back then after accomplishing the brilliant feats?
In two or three matches I scored hundreds in both innings. In a four-day game, you know bowlers can bowl plenty of overs. I like taking on these different challenges.
We were chasing a big score in the second innings. I remember we started well and then I had a big partnership with Irfan, Ramesh Powar and another guy. It remains a world record. It was a memorable record.
Are you hopeful of returning to Indian colours?
You don’t run after anything if it doesn’t give you hope. We, the Pathan brothers, have always felt it is important to dream and remain hopeful. It is the same in Islam. You have to want something from Allah, and you will get it. If you plant a tree, you don’t get to have the fruit immediately. It takes time, but then it starts giving results.
It is very tough but if you keep working hard, remain focused, then one day there will be an opportunity. My job is to keep trying; these DPL matches are very important to me as well.
Do all the Indian players need permission from the BCCI in order to play overseas T20s?
I don’t know. It is important what the officials think about this matter. There are many cricketers in India who play IPL and domestic cricket. I think other than the contracted players, the others can be allowed to play abroad. It will help them playing matches in different conditions. BCCI has done a lot for cricketers, especially by producing the IPL. So it is for them to decide whether they allow the players to play in overseas leagues.