Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day January 19, 2008

Pathan resurfaces from the wilderness

Irfan Pathan troubled the Australians with an ancient art and his prime strength - swing © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting reluctantly conceded that it was the swing bowling by the Indian bowlers that caused the Australian batsmen a lot of difficulty in both innings at the WACA. He could in fact blame Irfan Pathan for opening up the fissures straightaway with the new ball on both occasions. It was Pathan who sent back the left-handed opening pair of Phil Jacques and debutant Chris Rogers immediately, unsettling them with his prodigious swing early on with the new ball.

Australia have always believed in building early momentum, but in the absence of the seasoned Matthew Hayden, their new opening combine couldn't cope with the Indian new-ball attack of RP Singh and Pathan. It was not new for Pathan to prove a stumbling block once again, as he had done on his debut four summers ago, when as a 19-year-old arriving midway into the Test series, he made some of the best batsmen in the world wobble against his swing.

"I love bowling with the new ball for the country and in Test matches the new ball is special," said a beaming Pathan, who was rewarded with the Player of the Match acclaim for his all-round performance of a five-wicket match haul in addition to the valuable contributions with the bat in both innings. Of special importance was the 46 he compiled on Friday which would stop the Australians from driving the nail completely after they had sent back majority of the Indian top order.

Pathan, who's had swinging fortunes after a spectacular beginning in the early years of his short career, made a comeback after sitting out for over a year. During the final Test of the home series against Pakistan, he cracked a ton but could notch only one wicket in the entire game on an unsporting Bangalore track. But during the break he mediated on the shortcomings and today is much willing to accept them and look through the glass clearly.

Talking about his comeback, Pathan said, "It's always difficult especially when people talk negative about you even if I understand they want to help. But I came out of it and showed character. It was a tough time for me, and I worked hard on my action and game. Now it's showing up."

Pathan felt the most important thing for him was "to feel good, no matter what others feel". When Zaheer Khan, India's strike bowler in recent years, had to return due to his recurring heal injury, India faced an uphill task considering RP would be leading a rookie attack with the support of Pathan and young Ishant Sharma. But the trio turned the tables on the Australians, extracting everything the wicket and conditions at the WACA offered, to an extent the experienced opposition bowling fell short of.

Pathan said the WACA pitch was a true one and one of the best the bowlers had got so far in the series and his focus was only to pitch it up. After the Pakistan series, Pathan didn't feature in the first two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but he kept working on his basics throughout. And to that he gives most credit to Venkatesh Prasad, the Indian bowling coach.

"Venky is always talking to us during practice or the match. Since he was a pretty good bowler, he understands you. If he sees someone just sitting there he will ask questions and offer help. That's very important as a coach. He's always talking about bowling actions, bowling areas, talking after every spell, every break," says Pathan who agreed with his captain Anil Kumble that it was team work rather than any individual that earned the victory at Perth.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo