'Dhoni was a very shrewd captain in terms of his out of the box thinking and getting the work done.'
"If Anil Kumble had got the captaincy earlier in his career, he would have been one of India's best captains," Irfan Pathan tells Harish Kotian/Rediff.com in the third part of the interview:
How did Anil Kumble as captain handle the controversy during the Sydney Test?
He is a naturally born leader. He got the captaincy very late in his career.
If he had got the captaincy earlier in his career, he would have been one of India's best captains because his mind was very clear. He had this amazing calmness about him.
When he bowled, he was a different character, but when he led the side he was totally different. He was very calm.
He is a knowledgeable cricketer, he was good as captain for both batsmen and bowlers as well.
The way he handled the whole situation in Sydney (in 2008) was fantastic.
His leadership was superb as well, when to bring in someone to bowl, when to give someone a break, because he was aware of the different kinds of situation.
He had been on many tours of Australia before that so that really helped him handle the whole situation during the Monkeygate controversy and also lead the team in the matches after that.
Mahendra Singh was the surprise choice as captain for the 2007 World T20, but he emerged as one of India's best captains.
You saw him when he first came into the team in 2004 and then took over the captaincy and his rise as a cricketer and leader over the years. What was your impression of him?
If you keep at something again and again, then you evolve, you get better at it.
When he was young, I always believed that he was a very shrewd captain in terms of his out of the box thinking and getting the work done.
He believed in his spinners lot more than anyone else. He had unique style field settings as well because he was the wicket-keeper. And being the wicket-keeper he was very aware of what the batsman was thinking. When you are standing close to the batsman you are aware of his activity as well.
And since the World T20 win, his confidence just kept getting better and better as the leader.
There is no one close to him in terms of what he has achieved as captain.
How was it playing with your brother Yusuf for India? Both of you won a T20 match against Sri Lanka in February 2009 with the bat with you hitting 33 from 16 balls and Yusuf smashing 22 from 10 balls. Was it fun batting with him?
That was a game I remember because after that I didn't get a chance in the next series. Not a single ODI match I played after that (till 2011). People remember that series, but they don't remember what happened after that.
But anyways talking about that game, it was very special because we won the game out of nowhere.
Those days, the asking rate of 12 was unheard of. Even now if you manage to score that rate, it is considered a special achievement.
That was a difficult pitch as well. We were in a difficult situation because we were seven down at that point. Lasith Malinga was bowling really well so were the other Sri Lankan bowlers.
No one could hit the bowlers, but we both managed to do it at the end and won the game for our team. So it was a special innings for me.
A lot of people don't know, but after that, the (Baroda) team was playing in Rajkot and we were in a similar situation.
We were 80/5 and we were chasing 280.
Bhai (Yusuf) scored 100 and I scored 50 and we won the match from that situation. We have done that for Baroda in a lot of matches, but winning the match for India was very special.
What did you chat between overs when batting, like in that T20 match against Sri Lanka?
We had to just hit out without worrying about anything else, we had to play fearless cricket, that is what we were talking about. But when we reached closer to the target, when we knew that we couldn't lose a wicket at this point it was then we decided to be more careful.
I kept telling Yusuf, 'Bhai, you stay till the end and I will try for the big hits.' The whole family was very proud when we won that game.
Talking about your family, can you describe that incident involving your father who was unhappy with Javed Miandad's comment during the tour of Pakistan in 2003-2004 that a bowler like Irfan can be found in every street of Pakistan.
Your father reportedly confronted Miandad when he visited Pakistan.
He just wanted to go there and see Miandad's face after we had won the series, both ODIs and Tests.
He wanted to tell Miandad that after whatever you had said now it is time to eat your own words, without saying much. His wish was fulfilled seeing his face.
Miandad came up to my father and said, 'I didn't say anything like that about your son.' My father told him 'I didn't come to talk about that. I loved the way you played cricket so I came to meet you.'
You always kept calm and never believed in sledging. But you once got involved in an angry war of words with Kumar Sangakkara during a Test in Delhi in 2005. Can you tell us about that incident?
He was crossing the line by talking about my family and I had to give it back.
I scored 93-odd in that match. I even hit Muttiah Muralitharan for two sixes because I was playing aggressively.
He wanted to stir me up and make me play a false shot, but that didn't work. I generally don't say anything, but that time he crossed the line and I gave it back to him.
Who were the fast bowlers you enjoyed bowling with?
I enjoyed bowling with Lakshmipathy Balaji. I loved bowling with Zaheer Khan, he was a fantastic bowler, and it was really good bowling alongside him. These were the two guys I loved bowling with.
And the batsman or batsmen you found most difficult bowling against?
Adam Gilchrist was very difficult to bowl against. It was difficult to get him out because he was aggressive.
It was difficult to find the right length to bowl against him because he was so attacking.
He was a match-winner and he could single-handedly take the match away so you wanted to get him out early.
It was also difficult to bowl at Inzamam-ul Haq because he had a lot of time.