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CricTracker Exclusive: Irfan Pathan helped me develop in-swinger from scratch, says J&K pacer Mujtaba Yousuf

He also credited his J&K skipper Parvez Rasool for always backing and motivating him.

Mujtaba-Yousuf

There is a scarcity of left-arm pacers in India, the country which produced the cricketers like Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan among many. Khaleel Ahmed and Jaydev Unadkat have been around for quite some time now but they haven’t nailed their position in the Indian team yet. While there a few in the domestic circuit who are plying their trades, another left-arm bowler with genuine pace, Mujtaba Yousuf, made his first-class debut for Jammu & Kashmir in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season.

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Mujtaba made his List A and T20 debut last year itself and also went on to play four and six matches respectively in both formats. However, the youngster delivered a special performance for his team in the first innings against Haryana. He went on to pick a six-wicket haul helping J&K bundle out the opposition for 291 runs and take a crucial 49-run lead.

After achieving a rare feat on debut, Mujtaba Yousuf, in conversation with CricTracker, credited Irfan Pathan for his success and also explained in detail how he helped him in refining his bowling and especially develop the in-swinger, the skill which was missing from the bowler’s armoury.

‘Irfan observed my bowling for two days and then came to talk with me’

Irfan Pathan and Mujtaba Yousuf
Irfan Pathan and Mujtaba Yousuf. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Recalling the time when Irfan Pathan joined J&K as a player and coach-cum-mentor, Mujtaba said that the former India cricketer just observed his bowling for the first couple of days and before pointing out a few frailties to him. Irfan Pathan the master of swing bowling during his playing days and his ability to move the ball both ways which made him special.

The 35-year-old told Mujtaba that even he will able to generate a similar amount of swing if he works hard on it. Moreover, Irfan also shot a video of Mujtaba’s bowling and then worked with him to develop his in-swinger. “When Irfan joined J&K, Parvez Rasool came to me and told about him and also said that Irfan is a left-arm pacer and I can learn a lot from him.

“For the first two days, he just kept observing my bowling and then he came and talked to me about my bowling. And told me that I was not able to bowl the in-swinger. He said, ‘the amount of swing I was able to generate during my playing days, you can also do the same.’ Then when there were trials for One-Day, Irfan had helped us arrange a camp in Baroda as there was curfew here (in J&K).

“When I was bowling, he shot a video from behind. And then he suggested a few things to me in order to bowl in-swingers regularly without compromising my pace. I kept practicing and bowling the same way according to his suggestions for two-three months and finally was able to bring the ball into the batsman,” Mujtaba Yousuf said.

About Parvez Rasool’s role in his career

Parvez Rasool and Mujtaba Yousuf
Parvez Rasool and Mujtaba Yousuf. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Parvez Rasool is one of the best, if not the best cricketer J&K has ever produced and Mujtaba Yousuf made his debut across all three formats under his captaincy. Speaking about Rasool, the young pacer was all praise of him revealing how he supported and motivated him always to give his best. Rather he credits the success in his career thus far to Irfan and Parvez.

“Parvez bhaiya has played a very important role in my career so far. He has been very supportive always and as captain, he always backs youngsters and keeps giving them confidence. Both Irfan sir and Parvez bhaiya are the reason where I am today,” Yousuf added.

Nervousness on FC debut

Any young cricketer, may it be a batsman or bowler, is always nervous on his debut in any format and Mujtaba Yousuf was no exception. He was introduced into the attack as a first change bowler after J&K posted 341 runs in the first innings and sprayed it all around in his first couple of overs. But then, the seniors are always there to help. Ram Dayal, one of the best bowlers in the J&K advised him to relax and not take the pressure.

Mujtaba-Yousuf-in-1st-innings-on-FC-debut-for-Jammu-&-Kashmir

And the words of encouragement worked wonders for Mujtaba as he ended up picking six wickets in the innings. “I was very nervous while bowling in this game as it was my debut. My first ball was a full toss which went for a four and then I sprayed onto the leg-side. My first two overs were not good and I was very disappointed. But then the senior bowler in the team, Ram Dayal came to me and calmed my nerves. Conversation with him and also Parvez Rasool backed me then which helped me regain my confidence,” said Mujtaba Yousuf of his debut.

On his interaction with India pacer Ishant Sharma at the NCA

Not that Mujtaba Yousuf has suddenly hogged the limelight. He has been around in J&K since U14 days and was also selected in National Cricket Academy (NCA) Under-16 coaching camp in 2017. At the NCA, he saw Ishant Sharma who was undergoing rehabilitation who advised him to strengthen himself in order to generate pace and stay fit.

“Ishant Sharma was undergoing rehabilitation when I was at the NCA. I was willing to speak to him but was reluctant due to fear. However, Sanjeev Sharma who was present there told me not to be nervous and talk to him. While conversing with him, Ishant suggested me to build my body to increase my pace effectively,” Mujtaba, whose idol is former Australia pacer Mitchell Johnson, recalls.

Mujtaba Yousuf, like every other youngster in the country, wants to feature in the IPL and wishes to play for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) under none other than MS Dhoni. “I have been on trials for Rajasthan Royals before. But unfortunately, I didn’t get picked. If I get a chance, I would like to play for CSK as I like MS Dhoni and his captaincy,” Mujtaba said.

Parents’ role in Mujtaba Yousuf becoming a cricketer

No dream is achieved without struggle and in Mujtaba Yousuf’s case, his family has bared it all to help him live his dream. “My father is a labourer. My mother is a housewife. Actually nobody in my house knew what professional cricket is. But then when I decided to become a cricketer, they always backed me. My family has sacrificed a lot for me. We didn’t have money then and My father used to manage somehow to help me achieve my dream,” says Mujtaba Yousuf whose another dream is to pick Virat Kohli’s wicket someday.

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