When Irfan Pathan broke onto the international cricket scene, he was hailed as one of best young fast bowling talents to come out of India. In the next couple of years, he blossomed as an all-rounder under the stewardship of Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell.
Many years have gone by and we have seen the Baroda cricketer in and out of the national team, winning the World T20 in 2007 and the Champions Trophy in 2013 with the Men in Blue.
Here’s an exclusive interview with the man himself:
How has the rehabilitation gone so far, and when are you aiming to make a comeback to the national side?
The rehabilitation has gone really well for me. I have been working extremely hard at NCA, Bangalore and I hope it all pays off. I will be playing in the Vijay Hazare trophy at the end of this month so looking forward to it. I have been bowling 6 to 7 overs and improving every day. Right now my priority is to play and perform for Baroda but yes I want to get back in the Indian colours soon. I am currently at the peak of my fitness and game, and am feeling very positive. I think one needs to have this feel of goodness to succeed.
Do you think you have an advantage or disadvantage over Jadeja and Ashwin in Australia for the 2015 World Cup?
I don’t like to compare myself with any other cricketer. Comparisons are really unfair. I try to be the best of myself. I am constantly trying to improve myself both mentally and physically.
In the IPL, do you think you deserved to be retained by DD? Given a chance, which team would you want to join?
Well it totally depends on the franchise. These things are not in my control. In the auctions I don’t know what will happen. I have been playing well so hopefully things are going to turn out good. Let’s see which team picks me up. Whichever it is, I am going to give the best of me on the field.
What is your take on the new rule changes in the IPL auctions for this season?
It’s going to be exciting for sure.
How do you look at yourself in the side now? Are you focusing more on one skill – batting or bowling, or still want to give that all-rounder role a go?
I have always been a wicket taker and a run scorer. I want to be an all-rounder. The competition has become intense in cricket and one has to be good in both the departments of the game. I have accordingly worked on the level of my fitness and I am at the top of my game right now. I know I have talent and I want to exploit it fully in a positive manner. I know I am capable of becoming the best.
You have never been a 140 kph bowler, even when you burst onto the scene. Swing has always been your forte. How much does it bother you when you are criticized for the lack of pace on your comebacks? Do you think there is a case of misunderstanding here?
Every bowler and batsman in cricket has his own strengths and weaknesses. You will see some great successful bowlers in cricket history were never too fast nor slow but had an average speed. It’s all about talent and performance. There are people who would come and tell me that they want to swing the ball like me and talk about my pace.
Either way people are going to talk and find faults so you can’t do much about it. I used to worry a little before but now it doesn’t bother me. I know my strengths and I know what to do and what not to do. Its important for me to keep working on my strengths. With good grip and good seam and swing I am hoping to do well.
You will be hitting 30 this year. Are you nervous about selectors overlooking you because of your age?
I am only 29 and I think I still have a lot of time on my side. I have talent and I am performing and at the top of my game now. In cricket age doesn’t really matter. It’s all about how you perform out there. I am a very patient and positive person so nothing really frustrates me. I hope to make a comeback soon to the Indian side.
Most Indian batsmen are more comfortable against spin than pace. In your case it has been the opposite. You look more at ease against pacers than against spinners. Any particular reason for this?
Since childhood I have always been playing against pacers on a cemented wicket and I think that has helped me immensely. I like to play on bouncy surfaces. I won Man of the Match playing at Perth.
How do foreign coaches help you to bowl on these slow tracks? Can a sub-continental bowling coach do better?
Well, the coaches are doing a wonderful job. Venky and Dawson have contributed a lot and are exceptional. Gary Kirsten was not from the sub-continent but made the Indian team win the 2011 World Cup. It all depends on the bowlers as it is they who have to play.
Would you be okay with becoming a T20 specialist at the cost of not having a place in the Test and ODI team?
Not at all. I want to play and do well in all the three formats. They are very different from each other and have their own importance.
You seemed to have been one of the few players who looked happy playing under Greg Chappell. What do you think went wrong in the dressing room at that time?
Yes, he was good. And well, dressing room conversations are very private. What happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room!
You’ve been attending many current and ex-teammates’ weddings recently. Any plans to tie the knot soon?
As of now my focus is only on cricket and my performance. My brother got married recently and that’s the most happiness my family can take right now. I am loving my bachelor’s life at the moment and have no plans of tying the knot.