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I was helpless against injuries and bad luck: Irfan Pathan

Last updated on: October 27, 2011 21:54 IST

I was helpless against injuries and bad luck: Irfan Pathan

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Haresh Pandya

Irfan Khan Pathan, one of the finest all-rounders to represent India in recent years, blows 27 candles on his birthday cake on October 27. It is an age when a truly gifted cricketer usually attains full maturity and finds himself at the peak of his prowess. As far as Irfan is concerned, he finds himself out of Team India at this stage of his career. In fact, the last time he represented India in Test cricket was April 2008, and in One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 cricket in early 2009.

A lot of cricketing seasons have passed since. But what Irfan achieved between December 2003, when he made his India debut, and June 2009, when he last played an international match, was nothing less than spectacular. If anything, he took exactly 100 wickets (5 in an innings on 7 occasions, 10 in a match 2 times) at an average of 32.26 and scored 1105 runs (1 century, 5 fifties) at 31.57 in 29 Tests. Similarly, in 107 ODIs, he claimed 152 wickets at 29.91 and made 1368 runs at 22.80, with five half-centuries against his name. He was also fairly impressive in Twenty20 cricket while playing for the country.

So what went wrong? How hopeful is Irfan of regaining his place in Team India?

Following the West Zone Twenty20 tournament, in Rajkot, which was won by Vadodara, the handsome and humble Pathan opens up to Haresh Pandya about injuries that have hampered his career, and says he has to work harder to regain the prized India cap.

 

You were once an integral part of the national side. How do you feel being away for so long now?

It's always a great honour to play for one's country. I know what it means to play for India. Ours is a very big country and only a handful of players get to represent it. So it's a rare honour for any cricketer who gets a chance to play for India. Obviously, I feel sad at not being part of the national side. But I was helpless against my injuries and the streak of bad luck. I've been trying hard to get back into the Indian team.


Image: Irfan Pathan
Photographs: Getty Images
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'I have to work harder and stake my claim'

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Do you miss the glamour and glitz of international cricket?

It's not about glamour. Rather, it's about playing for one's country at the international level which is important. Yes, I miss international cricket. Though you play with and against many foreign players in the IPL, the charm of representing your country in international cricket is quite different. The joy and pride associated with it are indescribable.

You must have missed being part of India's successful World Cup campaign earlier this year...

Yes, obviously. But, like all my countrymen, I was very proud of India winning the World Cup. And I was very happy that my brother Yusuf Pathan was part of the World Cup-winning team. I was in the World Cup team in 2007, as you know, but did not get to play in any match. But that same year I got a chance to play in the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, where we beat Pakistan in the final.

Don't you think there is a lot of tough competition now for a berth in the Indian team?

It's a good sign, isn't it? It means there are so many talented players around. You don't get the India cap so easily. You've to earn it the hard way. And competitions are always tough. All I know is, I've to work harder, keep performing and stake my claim. And that's what I can do. If you noticed, I spent one hour in the nets immediately after we won the match today. I'm in my 20s, only, and there is still a lot of cricket in me.


Image: Irfan Pathan
Photographs: Getty Images
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'There is competition between Yusuf and me when it comes to eating!'

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Talking about competition, is there any between you and Yusuf, though both of you are quite different players?

No, there has never been any competition between us. Ultimately, it's an honour for the family if any one of us does better. Unfortunately, we haven't played much together for the country. Yes, there is always competition between Yusuf and me, when it comes to eating!

Many experienced cricketers have a tendency to advise younger or struggling players. Don't you think this can have a negative effective sometimes? What's your experience in this regard?

It depends on who advises you and about what. You've got to respect certain eminent cricketers. They've vast experience and they know what they are saying. Yet, sometimes you feel that you can't advise an engineer about engineering, and so on. As far as I'm concerned, I know my ability. But I listen to some players. I sometimes seek TA Shekhar's advice about my bowling.

But don't you think that a bowler might end up losing his originality and find himself greatly confused when he tries to implement all that he is advised by different people?

Yes, it's quite possible. I think only the player concerned knows what is best for him and he should work and bowl accordingly. Only he knows how much his body can take, what he is capable of doing or not doing, and so on.

Are you happy with your action, your rhythm?

Yes, I am. I've never had any problems with that. I've bowled on different wickets, in different conditions, in different situations, in different forms of the game and to different batsmen. Of course, I always strive to do better.


Image: Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan
Photographs: Reuters
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'I am principally a bowler who can contribute with the bat'

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What do you think is your main role or identity as a player?

I am principally a bowler who can contribute with bat, too. That's me.

Are you satisfied with the opportunities you got till you last played for India?

Yes. I really can't complain about that. Thanks to Allah, I got the break at the right time and kept getting opportunities to represent my beloved country.

You achieved so much so soon and triggered a lot of expectations. Did you ever feel that the weight of those expectations may have affected your performance?

Not really. On the contrary, expectations make you try to give your best. I know people have had expectations of me. And I take that as a compliment because it means I've got the ability and talent.

Can you name a couple of bowlers you have enjoyed sharing the new ball with?

Zaheer Khan obviously tops the list, followed by S Sreesanth.


Image: Irfan Pathan
Photographs: Getty Images
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'Would love to get back into the Indian team for Australia tour'

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What does cricket mean to you?

It means a lot to me. In fact, it means everything to me. Cricket has given so much to me and my family. Whatever I'm today is because of cricket and thanks to Allah's mercy. I was nobody before I began playing cricket and getting noticed. As you know, I come from a very humble background. I've not forgotten my past; I can't!

India is scheduled to tour Australia later this year. How hopeful are you of returning to the team and making the Australian tour?

It's too early to say anything about that. There is plenty of domestic and international cricket before Team India goes to Australia. Of course, I would love to get back into the Indian team and go to Australia.

You made your Test debut in Australia in 2003. You subsequently toured Down Under in 2007-08. What are your memories of playing in Australia?

It was quite an experience playing against Australia in Australia, where the wickets are fast and bouncy. Obviously, I still remember making my Test debut in Adelaide, where we won by four wickets. Then, at Perth in 2007-08, I did my bit with bat and ball in both the innings and played a small role in our famous victory.


Image: Irfan Pathan
Photographs: Getty Images
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