Blog by: Parag
Born on 27th October, 1984 in Baroda, Gujarat, Irfan Pathan is perhaps, one of the best all-rounder India has produced after Kapil Dev. He comes from a humble background. His father, Mehmood Pathan was a muezzin in a Mosque of Baroda. Irfan, along with his brother Yusuf Pathan grew up playing cricket in the backyard of the Mosque. The financial condition of the family was very weak but still, seeing his sons’ love and passion for the game, Mehmood Pathan somehow managed to send them to Baroda Sports Complex.
Irfan made it to the U-19 Indian Team and was very successful during the U-19 Asia Cup in Pakistan where he was the highest wicket taker in the tournament and bagged the ‘Man of the Series’ award as well. In a match against Bangladesh, he took 9 wickets for just 16 runs and made a world record.
It was only after this tour that he started gaining popularity and everyone expected him to be in the main team soon. As per the expectations, he got a call from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and was touring Australia. At the age of just 19, he made his international debut against Australia in a Test match in December 2003.
On the same tour, he surprised the whole cricketing world with a reverse-swing yorker, that made a mess of Adam Gilchrist’s stumps. His career started off in an unbelievable manner and he became the spearhead of the Indian pace attack in no time and completed his 100 one-day international wickets in just 59 matches.
Irfan was also named the ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ by ICC in 2004. In January 2006, he registered another world record when the 3rd Test match between India and Pakistan commenced in Karachi. In the very first over of the match, Irfan took a hat-trick which included world class players like – Salman Butt, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yusuf.
Everything was going amazingly well for the left-arm pacer until the former India coach Greg Chappell, in an attempt to convert him into a pure all-rounder, promoted him up the batting order. As a result, Irfan’s bowling performances drastically went down. He lost his swing, a bit of pace and gradually lost his place in the team.
Determined to make a comeback, Irfan Pathan worked hard and pushed himself through the tough time. Making his way back in the team for the inaugural T-20 World Cup in 2007, he played a crucial role in India’s victory. He bagged 10 wickets from 7 matches and was even declared the Man of the Match in the final against Pakistan, where he took 3 important wickets conceding only 16 runs.
In 2008, an unfortunate back injury led to his exclusion from the team. From there on, it was was a downward slide for the young player. But he has always been a fighter and he proved it as well. Feel bad, do nothing about it and sit back was never an option for him.
Whenever interviewed, he always sounded confident and optimistic. Critics were doing their job but Irfan knew what his job was. He was already put in the list of forgotten heroes. However, while there were still some die-hard fans who had faith in him and knew that he will be back, many doubted whether he would ever be seen in the India colors again or not.
But he was not ready to quit. He fought off all the injuries and finally made a remarkable comeback into the Indian Team in December 2011, after almost two and a half years. In fact, he struck with the first delivery in his comeback match and sent Lendl Simmons, the West Indies opener, back to the pavilion.
In the recently concluded Indian tour of Sri Lanka, Irfan was not named in the original squad. But an injury to Vinay Kumar gave him an opportunity, which he grabbed with both hands. Irfan ended up as the highest wicket taker in the series with 8 wickets in the 5 ODIs and 3 wickets in the only T-20. He also played two useful knocks with the bat which helped the team, earned two back to back ‘Man of the Match’ awards and India won the ODI series 4-1 and also the single T-20 match.
India had a poor outing in the T-20 World Cup 2012 as India couldn’t even reach semi finals but Irfan performed decently. In IPL 2013, his team Delhi Daredevils had its worst outing in 6 years as it ended up last in the points table with just 3 wins in 16 matches. Compared to other players of the team, Irfan was more consistent and that gained him a spot in the Indian team for the ICC Champions Trophy 2013.
However, after just one bad performance in a practice match against Sri Lanka, he was made to sit out for the rest of the tournament, which India won.
Thereafter, another injury came his way and he missed a couple of tours which the Indian team did. So far, his career has not been less than a roller coaster ride with so many ups and downs. But it is his patience, ability to fight back and the support of his fans which has always kept him going.
The Indian skipper MS Dhoni has always favored a fast-bowling all-rounder and wants Irfan to take the responsibility. Now it will be interesting to see whether Irfan lives up to the expectations of the team or not.