Shocked Irfan Pathan uncertain of his future in cricket
The former captain alleges ulterior motives behind Baroda's decision to drop him from the team.
What's the story?
Having been unceremoniously sacked from captaincy and axed from the Baroda team following just two matches in the 2017/18 Ranji Trophy season, veteran all-rounder Irfan Pathan has admitted to being uncertain of his immediate future in cricket. Shocked by the selectors' decision to remove him from the team despite a decent showing in the first couple of games, the 33-year old alleged that his exclusion could have stemmed from non-cricketing issues.
In a candid chat with Hindustan Times, Irfan lamented, "I am puzzled. This is happening for the last three years. I am trying to find an answer within myself without asking anyone. (If my) performance is not there, no issues. But I just scored 80 runs batting at number 6 (and) got wickets (too). The ball is coming out really well. I am fit, then why drop me? They (Baroda Cricket Association) even had a big press conference and said I am the team’s mentor and captain for the season and that I will help develop the players. Things can’t change so suddenly after just two games, can it? This can’t (just) be a cricketing issue."
He surmised, "It is important to play domestic cricket and perform really well. If there is no opportunity in domestic cricket and if these things keep happening, I wonder what is going to happen. I have always fought on the field. It was going fine whether it was my bowling or fitness, but right now the situation does not look good. However, I know this is not the end. Although my main aim is limited-overs cricket, I (also) want to play four-day cricket as it makes you keep going and helps you get your rhythm."
After leading Baroda in their first two matches of the ongoing Ranji Trophy season, Irfan was surprisingly stripped of his captaincy and 22-year old Deepak Hooda replaced him at the helm of affairs. To make matters worse, the left-arm pacer also found himself dropped from the team ahead of their clash against Tripura at the Reliance Stadium in Vadodara.
The heart of the matter
Irfan started the 2017/18 Ranji Trophy season on a strong note by scoring a 130-ball 80 against Madhya Pradesh at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore. However, his bowling was ineffective as 19 overs fetched him just a solitary wicket. Ultimately, Baroda lost the match by 8 wickets.
Although Baroda managed a draw against Andhra Pradesh in Vadodara, Irfan's performance was rather inadequate. He was shot out for scores of 0 and 4 in the first and second innings respectively. From almost 21 overs, the left-arm seamer could pick up only one scalp. While most other state associations would have backed a seasoned campaigner like him in such a scenario, the Baroda selectors pulled off a massive surprise by not only sacking the experienced cricketer from captaincy but also dropping him from the team for a younger alternative.
Riding on Vishnu Solanki's sublime century as well as useful contributions from the lower middle-order, Baroda have taken control of the ongoing match against an inexperienced Tripura unit. With the team beginning well under Hooda's watch, the Baroda selectors may continue to overlook Irfan for their next clash against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium starting on 9th.
At 33 and counting, Irfan's future in cricket seems to be on shaky ground. With chances of making a national comeback almost negligible even as opportunities in the domestic arena continue to dwindle, the all-rounder's playing career is shrouded in uncertainty. Although it may sound premature at the moment, he may soon have to start thinking about a move to another state team as a professional.