Irfan Pathan aiming to make a difference in J&K Cricket
Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association's latest insertion and one of the prime allrounder's country has produced, Irfan Pathan began his journey with J&K cricket about a month ago and is on an aim of 'making a difference' to J&K's trouble-hit cricket.
Having played his last international match in 2012, Pathan hasn't been in limelight for a long time owing to the injuries he has had throughout his career. Last season, he captained Baroda in first two matches of Ranji Trophy, though was later removed from the squad due to some 'internal bickering' with the association.
After JKCA was taken over by the Supreme Court appointed administrators, they started working on making things better in J&K cricket. In this process, they along CEO, JKCA, Ashiq Bukhari offered a contract to Irfan Pathan in January this year, which he later accepted.
Pathan had several options but he stuck to join JKCA owing to the situation of cricket in the state.
"There were several plans in my mind but when Justice C.K Prasad and Ashiq Bukhari approached me to join J&K team as mentor cum player, I started thinking over it. Later, Kapil Paaji also suggested me the same," Irfan told Sportskeeda's Mohsin Kamal in an interview.
Irfan accepted the contract but instead to 3 years, he opted to choose for one year only. As Pathan arrived Kashmir, he immediately started working to ensure he does his job.
"A lot of work is to be done here and without wasting any time, I started commencing my job. I came here to work not just by words but with the action," Pathan said.
Since Irfan's entry, J&K's cricket has witnessed some major initiatives like talent hunt camps, longer format cricket tournaments etc organised.
"A 40 over tournament, first of its kind was organized in every district of the state in order to mark out the hidden talent. Wherein talented cricketers were selected and given a chance to showcase their skills," Pathan claimed.
This tourney was accompanied by a trial camp held by Irfan Pathan himself, where he selected few extraordinary players who were later adjusted in senior men's camp.
"I checked all the selected players one by one and was able to mark out some amazing players who were completely unknown before. They were later adjusted in senior men's camp and played practice games along them," Irfan said.
Among these players, Irfan believes a boy who he chose not to name has a potential to go very high.
"In my voyage here, even if a single player of state can make it to the highest level, that would be satisfying for me. Thankfully, during the shorter period, I have been able to recognize a player who surely will make it big. It is surprising that he hasn't played any state-level cricket yet," Irfan revealed.
Irfan spends as many as 10 hours daily in the ground with the boys to make his presence felt, "I each day come to ground at 9 in morning and leave at 7 in the evening. I want to spend as much time as I can with the boys to help them enhance their skills," Irfan said.
J&K's record in domestic cricket is on the negative side, though some seasons back they made it to the quarters of Ranji Trophy and defeated Mumbai as well. However, they again shifted to back foot in last few seasons, which according to Pathan is due to lack of proper structure and events.
"The main problem here is the lack of proper structure, here most of the cricket is being played on matting wicket and players seldom get to play longer format cricket. Else than these things, better team environment is also required in the state," Pathan mentioned.
Irfan Pathan thinks the current administration of JKCA is willing to fill the voids in J&K cricket, "Bukhari Sahaab(CEO, JKCA) is very supportive and really wants to do something for the betterment of cricket in state. First the tournament and then talent hunt camps were held first time in J&K, which proved to be very helpful," he said.
Unlike previous years, the trial camp cum matches are being held few months before the start of the domestic season,
"Previously, teams were selected mere days before the start of domestic season but this year it happened months early. Though, I still believe we are a month late," Irfan claimed.
J&K has only been able to produce a single international cricketer in Parvez Rasool despite the passion of cricket in youth is limitless.
"There is plenty of talent in the state but players play with a negative mindset that in spite of doing well, we would not make it big. Which is completely untrue, my message to these boys is that score 800 runs or take 40 wickets in a season and see if you will still be neglected. If you score 300-400 runs or take 10-20 wickets, that is not going to help owing to the competition in domestic cricket," Irfan said.
In the end, when questioned about his own career, Pathan said that upcoming domestic season will act as a decider.
"I am looking forward for the upcoming domestic season and will give it my all. Let's see how it goes," Irfan replied with a smile.