Irfan Pathan completes 100 first-class matches, eyes international comeback
Irfan Pathan played his 100th first-class match last week when he turned out for Baroda in a Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka in Mysore. The 30-year-old helped his side secure 3 points against the reigning champions with a useful contribution of 34 in the first innings with the bat and picked up 3 wickets in the match.
Speaking to Wisden India, Irfan said: "I'm very happy and proud to have reached that milestone. Playing for such a long time in first-class cricket is quite a satisfying thing. Over the last couple of years, I have missed out on playing domestic cricket. I played a few games as a batsman last season, but missed playing as an allrounder.
"When you play only Twenty20 cricket or one-day cricket, you just need to do the right thing at the moment - like bowling a yorker or a defensive line. But when you play in all three formats, your overall cricket improves. So in that sense, playing 100 first-class games is a special achievement for me. Only five players have done it for Baroda and it's a proud thing. But there's still a long way to go."
Irfan Pathan rejuvenating Baroda
Since Irfan made a comeback this season, Baroda have won one match and taken 3 points (with a first innings lead) in two matches. In the last match against Karnataka, who have been a dominant force in domestic cricket recently, Irfan’s contributions played a big role in Baroda taking a first innings lead. This was the first time this season that Karnataka hadn’t taken the lead after the first innings this season.
Irfan admits that he needs match practice when it comes to the question of a possible return to international cricket. He is pleased with the way he has been bowling in domestic cricket this season and states that he’s not far away from getting back to his best.
"Right now, I am not too far. I need to play more first-class games. I would become better as I play more matches. I am only going to get better. I have bowled 90 overs in the last three matches and I'm happy with the way my bowling is shaping up.
"I'm beating the batsmen regularly and also getting the crucial, big wickets. As long as those things are happening and I'm having the batsmen in trouble, wickets will come. I am not far away getting bulk of wickets. I'm not far away from bowling the way Irfan Pathan can bowl," Irfan said.
Irfan shoots back at critics
After falling out of favour with the Indian selectors, Irfan made himself available for entire seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2013 and 2014, which came under huge criticism as he had not played much for his state Baroda during that time.
Irfan did not even bowl in 3 out of the 4 matches he played during that period and he wants to clear the air regarding that.
"I have heard some people criticise me saying Irfan Pathan doesn't play the Ranji Trophy. Let me tell you something. You can check with K Sanath Kumar (then Baroda coach). When I played those few games, I was playing despite not being fully fit. I had a crack on my rib.
"It was a pretty serious injury and maybe I will tell the full details some day. But for now, let's come back to those three matches. Sanath requested me to play as a batsman, saying my presence will be good for the youngsters as I can share my experience with them. That's why I played those three games as batsman even though I wasn't ready. A lot of people didn't see that. They just saw that I didn't play Ranji Trophy," the left-handed medium pacer said.
Irfan keen to get rid of ‘injury prone’ tag
Irfan is also trying his best to rid of the ‘injury prone’ tag that some have labelled on him over the last few years.
"What is this 'injury prone'? Look at Ryan Harris. How many times has he been injured? But he has always come back and played. Pat Cummins too has got injured several times at such a young age. That's just how a sportsman's life goes.
"Unfortunately, here, we stamp a player as injury prone. There is a lot of stress on your body when you bat or bowl or field. The human body is designed to run straight. But bowling and batting has a lot twists and turns, so you will get injured because you are doing an unnatural thing to the body," he added.
He also went on to speak about how his new action is a result of a gradual process that bowlers go through in their cricket careers.
"I read somewhere that 'Irfan has changed his action again'. It doesn't happen that way. You will never see a bowler who retains the same action throughout his career. Tell me one bowler who has started and ended his career with the same action. There will always be some changes as you go on playing and as you get experienced. There will be some minute changes and that will only help my bowling," he said.
In 100 first-class matches, Irfan has scored 3632 runs at an average of 31.85 and taken 333 wickets at 28.43. He last represented India during the World T20 back in October 2012. He was part of the Indian squad that won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013, but he did not play in any match during the tournament.