A number of times when the curly-haired Pathan ran in and roared, India did something special. His debut at the age of 19 in the 2003 Adelaide Test coincided with India winning a Test Down Under after 23 years, and his recall for the World T20 in 2007 saw India clinch the trophy. Pathan, in fact, took three wickets for 16 runs in the final against Pakistan and was adjudged the ‘Man of the Match’. His valor in India’s famous victory in the 2008 Perth Test was a fitting reply to his critics.
In between those performances, he bamboozled Pakistan — first in 2004, when India won their maiden Test series on Pakistan soil and then in 2006, when his first-over hat-trick in Karachi sent a wave of terror in the arch-rivals’ camp.
Ask cricket fans an Indian cricket moment they would never forget from the late ’90s onwards, the answer could be the 2011 World Cup win, the 2007 World T20 victory, Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes, the 2002 Natwest trophy final, Virender Sehwag’s triple hundreds, Sachin Tendulkar’s desert-storm knock or his 100th century, Rohit Sharma’s double tons, plus many more. But one Pathan moment that will easily find a place high up on that list is his Test hat-trick in the 2006 Karachi Test.
Bowling the first over of the match, Pathan’s pace and swing knocked out Salman Butt, Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf off consecutive balls, leaving Pakistan tottering at 0/3. That was followed by a middle-order collapse as well, which left Pakistan reeling at 39/6. Indian skipper Rahul Dravid couldn’t have asked for more, opting to field first on a fresh, chilly morning.
It’s that moment of Indian cricket history that Timesofindia.com tried to revisit by contacting the man himself, and Pathan detailed a blow-by-blow account from that day more than 14 years ago.
The below account is the version of the narration in Pathan’s own words:
THE 2006 KARACHI TEST, AFTER RUN-FESTS IN FAISALABAD AND LAHORE
The first and foremost thing when the Test match started, it was early morning in Karachi. In the first two Test matches, everyone had gone for runs. None of the teams could win. Both the matches were draws and were high-scoring games. It was like a graveyard for bowlers, and the teams were complaining about the pitches for not being result-oriented. Then we came to Karachi for the third Test. It was a slightly chilly morning and I was very pumped up as well to do well, because I had been the guy in the Indian team at that time who used to take the first wicket regularly.
That particular morning, I remember, I wanted to swing the ball, I wanted to hit the batsmen on their pads. That’s the aim I had. I never thought that I’ll get a hat-trick in the first over, but I wanted to get early breakthroughs for my team, especially on that morning.
When I bowled the first ball, it was from the leg-stump. Salman Butt being a left-hander, I wanted to make sure that he plays the first ball, but it didn’t swing as much as I would have liked.
The second ball I bowled on the off-stump, it went away. He left the ball, the third as well.
THE FIRST TWO VICTIMS
The fourth ball was right on the money, the way you want as a (swing) bowler — the batsman defends the ball, it edges the bat and goes to the slip. It exactly happened the way I wanted.
(Salman Butt c Dravid b Pathan 0)
The second one, I knew that Younis Khan was a kind of batsman who was always a difficult proposition for India. He scored a lot of runs against us and actually finished his career as one of the best batsmen for Pakistan. We all knew that his wicket was very, very important. We needed to get him early.
I had a very attacking field against him, but still I wanted to make sure that the first ball I bowled to him had (an element of) risk in it. That’s the kind of bowling I always had. I always wanted to take that risk to get the batsman out early. By doing that, if you get hit for four, people might say that it’s a bad ball, but that’s what the bowlers do, take risks. If you don’t take that risk, you won’t get a reward as well.
Obviously the ball was swinging, but before Younis, it was a left-handed batsman and now right-handed. So for me to adjust the line straight away, that was the thing in my mind. But most importantly, I wanted to make sure that I bowled a length that hit him below the knee-roll.
As soon as the ball went from my hand, I knew it was that perfect length I wanted. When I turned around (to appeal for LBW), I knew that (umpire) Simon Taufel was going to raise his finger because the ball had hit Younis below the knee-roll, and was hitting the middle stump.
(Younis Khan lbw Pathan 0)
When I went to bowl the third delivery, so many things were going through my mind. I had been on a hat-trick before as well. I had taken a hat-trick in junior cricket, for India under-15, in the plate championship in England when I played for India Under-19. So I wanted to do that in (senior) international cricket as well. Before that, in international cricket, in both one-day and Test cricket, I had come close to taking a hat-trick twice but couldn’t do it.
I left everything on the Almighty and decided that I’m just going to ball my best ball. I knew that this was Mohammad Yousuf, who had gotten out to me many times. I knew that he was also waiting for my in-swinger. But even if it’s a good ball, even if he was waiting for the same delivery, it will hit his pad. I wanted to do that.
The kind of swing I got on that ball doesn’t happen (easily). People take time to do that. I delivered the ball, I wanted to hit Mohammad Yousuf’s pads and luckily the ball swung so much. Even after pitching, it had movement and it went between his bat and pad to hit the stumps. At that time obviously you don’t think about those things, but when I look back, obviously it feels really great and satisfied that people still talk about this hat-trick.
(Mohammad Yousuf b Pathan 0)
‘NO PAAJI, I HAVE NO IDEA’
I remember when the Pakistan innings finished and we went inside the dressing room, Sachin (Tendulkar) paaji asked me: “You know that this is a world record?” I replied, “No paaji, I have no idea.”
No one else had done it before.
THE MOST SATISFYING WICKET OF THE HAT-TRICK
All three deliveries were fantastic. You want the batsman to play a defensive shot and get him out in the slip. It happened with Salman. You want to hit the batsman on the pad before even the bat comes down. It happened to Younis Khan. But getting a hat-trick with that kind of swing and that kind of movement, I think Mohammad Yousuf’s wicket will be very, very special, also because it had a hat-trick written on it.
Even if there was advice, yes there was from everywhere, I couldn’t hear anything. The only thing I was hearing was my own thoughts.
INDIA LOST THE GAME
Obviously, losing the game is always disappointing no matter what performance you put in. Even if you take one wicket, you want the team to win.
That’s one particular game when obviously you got disappointed when you had done so well and you performed well. I remember scoring 40 runs (first innings) as well in that Test match and not able to win the game was highly disappointing.
INDIA’S LUCKY MASCOT AGAINST PAKISTAN
There was a time in the ’90s when we used to lose regularly to Pakistan. But when I came onto the scene and started playing against Pakistan, the majority of the games we won. Be it the Asia Cups, the series played in Pakistan in 2004, matches later on, the T20 World Cup final.
I always talk about my performance against Pakistan because the majority of the matches I played against Pakistan, we won, and I have been able to contribute in those wins. In 2004 we won the one-day series and the Test series. I had a contribution in that. A lot of people say that I should have gotten the ‘Man of the Match’ award. But that doesn’t matter. It’s all about contribution.