It’s good to be back: Irfan Pathan
Chennai, Sep 12: Modesty and humility are the two characteristics that stand out upon meeting Irfan Khan Pathan. A courageous and determined young man, Irfan’s is a story of trials and triumphs. The left-arm pacer had made an impact with his ability to swing the ball when he burst onto the scene in 2003. He even impressed everyone with his knack for swinging the willow to chip in with useful runs. From being touted as a successor to the legendary Kapil Dev to being written off from the international scene either due to poor form or injuries, the all-rounder has always sprung back into prominence.
A few months ago, Irfan again managed to work his way back into the national side. A thinking cricketer, he has reworked his bowling, developed variations and devised tactics for bowling in the shorter formats of the game.
Before leaving for Sri Lanka for the 2012 ICC World T20, the player, who was the Man-of the-Match in 2007 ICC World T20 finals against Pakistan, spoke to bcci.tv about the forthcoming tournament.
The 2012 ICC World T20 looks like a reunion of sorts for some of the players from 2007 cup-winning side. It also seems to be a tournament of comebacks. Your thoughts?
In many ways yes, a lot of guys from that World Cup are there in this team. It’s quite a good feeling because there are a lot of good things that we are hoping will happen. The most important thing is that Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh] is coming back. He has started playing cricket, which is a great thing not only for him, but for the Indian team as well as all sports lovers around the world. It is great that an Indian has actually fought cancer and is coming back. He is an example of how cancer is not cancel anymore. You can fight it, which is a great thing.
A lot of great things happened in 2007 when we won the World Cup; it is always going to be a great privilege to be part of that side. Most of the guys are there in this World Cup as well so let’s hope we do repeat some of the good things in this World Cup too.
Recently Kyle Mills said that Sri Lankan wickets have been assisting seamers. Your take on that?
If you go to Hambantota and Kandy, those pitches are definitely helping fast bowlers more than spinners. But if you come to Colombo, even this time [when we went there] a lot of slow bowlers got purchase from the wicket and even our part-timers took wickets in those two games that we played in the R Premadasa Stadium. And most of the Indian team’s matches are going to be in Colombo. Whatever the conditions, whether they are bowling-friendly, or spin-friendly or fast bowling-friendly, you have to be on your mark because that’s why you are there in the team and that’s why you play there. Because of the humid conditions in the evening, the ball will swing; there is no doubt. But it is not as helpful as compared to Kandy and Hambantota where we also played recently. World Cup is a big event; lot of pressure games. So, those who can hold their nerves and perform under pressure situations are going to do really well.
How much has your IPL experienced helped you?
I think IPL should be given a lot of credit. I am one of the examples. I am one of the guys who has performed in the IPL and actually done well. Because, you play so many matches all the time and because you play a lot of matches regularly, your rhythm comes in. It is not like you are playing a match and then you are playing the next match after 15 days; it is not like that in IPL. You keep playing matches and when you keep playing matches, it’s like the machines are going on and the engine is always working. So, when that happens, you don’t have to put the force on accelerator. It is very similar for the body as well; the body keeps moving and so it helps. So, I think a lot of credit has to be given to IPL as well as domestic cricket. I played a lot of domestic cricket last year, so that has helped as well. Playing lot of matches has really helped me out last season. I hope that I keep doing that during this season as well.
Being an all-rounder you have to contribute with bat as well and Yuvraj Singh also said that you and Harbhajan Singh will add depth to the batting. What is your role with the bat?
Absolutely, it is very important. The more a side can bat lower down the order, the more beneficial it is to their team, especially at the international level. The time has gone when the team only used to bat till No.8. Now sometimes even the No.11 batsman needs to bat. That’s where cricket has reached. So, the more all-rounders you have in your side, the more beneficial it is for your team.
I don’t neglect my batting. I have been working hard on my batting. The Sri Lanka tour was really good for me in terms of batting and bowling, so I am feeling good at the moment. I just want to continue my batting, try to play big shots and try to play according to the situation. And that’s what I want to do eventually when the time comes. Hopefully, I can play some part in the batting department too.
Lakshmipathy Balaji, someone you have played with earlier in your career is also returning to the national side after three years. Share with us your experience bowling with him.
I and Balaji share a lot of good experiences. We have played a lot of cricket together and we have been very good mates for a very long time. Whether we are playing for the country or not playing for the country it doesn’t make any difference to our relationship and that has always been the case. It is good to see him coming back and it’s a great feeling to see him spending time [bowling]. And the way he is doing, working hard in the nets and everything, he is looking fit and he is looking like he is raring to go. I wish him luck and hope that we all can make our country proud.
Do you see any parallels in your and Zaheer Khan’s career?
Zaheer has reached an excellent level; he has reached the top level. I have seen some similarities at the start of the career in that he came in really well as a young fast bowler, then he didn’t perform and then came back and then he had an injury and came back again. Then, he also played some County Cricket and then played again [for India]. Similarly, I had faced the situation at a smaller level where I started really well, then my performance went down, then I had an injury and then I made a comeback and then again injury and then again coming back. So, it has been like that if you look at it.
We do speak about bowling. He shares his experiences, which is tremendous. Being a leader of the pack of bowlers, he does this [sharing and guiding] really well. A lot of learning has come just by watching him as well; the way he goes about his game. He has got amazing control of the ball, which is actually something to look out for.