Whenever the name Irfan Pathan is mentioned, there is generally a sigh that fills a room. A sudden dullness, a feeling that someone sucked the air out that place. 13 years since his debut, he remains one of the most popular and loved Indian cricketers ever.
There are of course a number of reasons why he is so revered. From impressing in his debut Test series Australia with his swing bowling to becoming a bit-part player in the IPL, he has seen the highs and lows of the game.
His career highlights have come against India's eternal foes, Pakistan. Most famously, at the National Stadium in Karachi in 2006, he took an incredible hat-trick that had to be seen to be believed.
A year later, he was at it again. In the final of the World T20, he picked up 3 wickets for 16 runs in a man of the match performance to help India clinch the inaugural World T20 trophy. Since then, he has shown sparks of the world-beating potential he showed when he first arrived on the international stage.
Injuries have played their part in his decline. He has never really enjoyed a full season since 2008. An incredible workload had a huge part to play in his fitness issues, not only was he India's spearhead with the ball, he was trusted with the bat under the Rahul Dravid-Greg Chappel management team, where he batted as high as No. 3.
Pathan was last seen in action for India in the autumn of 2012 when was part of the squad that travelled to Sri Lanka for the World T20 campaign. He played all the games there before injury struck again and proved to the final straw for him. He has since never been selected for the Indian team.
The comeback trail
At 31, only 31, he remains incredibly confident of his ability to make a comeback into the Indian setup. There is almost a sense of defiance about him as he spoke to the Hindustan Times about the direction in where his career is headed.
He represents Baroda in the Ranji Trophy where he plays most of his cricket nowadays. He is a key component of the squad and helped them win a warm-up tournament to the Ranji Trophy. "It is good to be contributing with the ball as well as the ball for Baroda. In another 10 days, the Ranji season would start so it is good to be in form at the start of the season. It was a conscious decision to take part in this tournament and get some runs and wickets under my belt before the Ranji challenge starts." he said.
It was an especially disappointing season for him in this year's IPL. He only got off the bench on four occasions for the Rising Pune Supergiants and never left his mark on the tournament. There were a number of fans who were calling for his inclusion in the squad. "Sitting out so much in such a big tournament is not easy but then the team management has to choose the playing XI keeping in mind the best combination. I rate coach Stephen Fleming very high and Dhoni understands the game well. I am sure they have faith in my cricket abilities. I would be giving my best in the next edition." he lamented.
His performances in all 3 domestic competitions - The Ranji Trophy, the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament have been impressive over the last couple of seasons. He could have been knocking on the door of the national selectors and there might have been long discussions over the possibility of a comeback for him.
Speaking about his future, he concluded saying, "I got encouraging feedback last season on my form. It was just a matter of a grabbing a chance. Even I felt that I could have got a look into the national team. If Ashish Nehra can make a successful comeback at 36, I have not also lost hope at 31. It is never too late."
That last line will warm the hearts of Irfan Pathan fans around the world. The fire is still alive for the bowler. There could be one final hurrah on the cards.