Irfan Pathan has made a great return to the Indian team in the just concluded Sri Lankan tour, relishing his opportunities with both bat and ball as he was instrumental in the Indian team’s routing of the Lankans in both the ODI series and the one-off T20.
He was not in the initial squad picked for the Lankan tour, even after a decent outing in his last series, and everyone was surprised upon hearing of his exclusion from the squad. But Vinay Kumar , the medium pacer, got injured before the tour and that paved the way for Irfan to get back into the squad.
The team management backed Irfan and he was their first choice, unlike the selectors, and was picked up for the first ODI to share the new ball with Zaheer Khan. He lived up to their expectations by picking up two wickets in the first game and improved as the other games came along.
The new rule of ODI cricket of having two new balls from both the ends has certainly helped Irfan, as he got the new ball to swing about, which is his greatest strength, and thus troubling the batsmen.
The all-rounder was in his elements with the bat too. With the team staring down the barrel in the third ODI, he joined Suresh Raina with the team needing 91 off around 11 overs to win the game. He maintained his composure in the pressure situation, scored 34 crucial runs and played an ideal foil for Raina as both brought India home comfortably.
The batting heroics continued even in the final ODI as he and Dhoni helped India post a good total on the board after the fall of the regular batsmen. The batting efforts resulted in a boost in confidence as he picked up his second 5 wicket haul in ODIs. After doing well first up and picking up 2 wickets in his first spell, he came back at the death to bail out the team from the counterattack of Mendis and Thirimanne and picked up 3 more wickets to complete the Lankans’ drubbing on their home soil.
The form continued in the one-off T20 international as well. After the batsmen put up a decent total of 155, Irfan, spearheading the pace attack after Zaheer Khan returned home, lead from the front swinging the ball in good bowling conditions as he took 3 crucial top order wickets to break the backbone of the Sri lankan batting and made it comfortable for the team to record its 5th victory of the first tour of the season.
This performance from him at the start of the season is a good sign for the Indian team as the team gears up for the long season ahead. The Indian team is scheduled to play most of the games this season in the subcontinent with the New Zealand home series followed by the world T20, and then the England tour of India. His allround ability will help the team to maintain its balance, as he makes up for Yuvraj singh who is yet to return from the international cricket after fighting cancer.