ICC World Twenty20 2012 September 14, 2012

Buoyant Irfan relishing top-flight cricket

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Four days before the World Twenty20, Irfan Pathan seems lighter. It's not just that he looks leaner in a tight-fitting India practice shirt than he has been since his last major injury; it goes deeper than that. It's in his disposition, the way he quips at the start of each question before answering it in earnest. Smiles, delivers each sentence with poise; his expression giving away that he is loving every moment of being inside that shirt, even when he is off the field. It's a lightness of being, and it's infectious. A state of mind he says he had to find to cope with frustration of his stuttering international career.

Even before a back injury ruled him out for eight months in 2010, Irfan had been in and out of the national team for reasons of form and fitness. He arrived on the international scene with the pressure of being expected to be the next Kapil Dev, and perhaps he allowed that to wear him down mentally in his younger years, as his body continued to break down just as he had seemed to build some momentum in his performances. Now, though, those expectations are the farthest thing from his mind, he says. He has learnt to let go, learnt to take each match in isolation and to simply be grateful for the good days.

"This is what I've learnt throughout the year," he says. "I love playing, but sometimes you just put too much pressure on yourself by thinking about performance. Eventually you have to come down to the level where you love the game and you just play."

Irfan was part of the squad for the ODI tri-series in Australia early in the year, but could not convince the selectors to give him another extended run in the national team. Perhaps long-standing perceptions of him as an underachiever and too slow a seamer to be effective at the international level, were taking their toll on the opportunities provided to him.

"A lot of people talk about my pace, but I'm generally never bothered. I'm not an out-and-out quick bowler. Everyone has their own gifts and I have my strengths and weaknesses as well. I'm really happy with my seam position, and I've done a lot of work on that. I'm really happy with the way things are going and the zip that I'm getting off the wicket."

"I've tried to learn a few tricks in terms of thinking out the batsmen. The more experience I have, the better I'm getting in terms of that. I think that long term, that's what I want to keep working on"

That "zip" saw him become one of the leading wicket takers in India's ODI series against Sri Lanka in July and August. It was a series he wasn't initially picked for, but was drafted in when Vinay Kumar withdrew through injury. He was still fairly pedestrian in terms of pace, but what brought Irfan results was working out his opponents and bowling to a strategy.

Upul Tharanga is one of the best cover drivers in the Sri Lanka team, but Irfan turned his opponent's strength into a weakness in the fifth ODI when he pitched one slightly shorter and wider of off stump and drew the batsmen into an aerial stroke with short extra cover in place. He had tried the same ploy in the previous over and been creamed for two fours through point, having missed his length. Irfan stuck to his plan, though, and gleaned the reward. He was a man marked out for his raw talent as a 19-year-old, but eight years later, the canny tricks of experience are what are bringing him results.

"I've tried to learn a few tricks in terms of thinking out the batsmen. The more experience I have, the better I'm getting in terms of that. I think that long term, that's what I want to keep working on."

For now, Irfan is just happy that this latest comeback has lasted this long. "I will do whatever the team needs," he says. Batting at three or as low down as nine, bowling with the new ball or the old, he's simply visibly ecstatic to be part of the team at all. Having shed the ambition and expectation that crippled large parts of his career, Irfan has made things simpler for himself.

Yuvraj Singh's return to international cricket has hogged the headlines, but quietly, in the background, Irfan has been scripting a comeback tale of his own. He will hope this one will be his last.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on September 16, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    Irfan has got immense talent that has been underutilized by the Team India. by bad luck he is often out of the team. Now I feel his time has come again. He is a very good batsman too, but India still not utilizing the same. Given adequate opportunity, he could be the best All Rounder after Kapil Dev Lets us all wish Irafan All the best! I am sure future is Irfan's

  • AbAdvani on September 16, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    We all should thank Vinay Kumar -if he had not got injured, Irfan would not have got his second wind back and he would not have been part of the T20 team despite the fact that he is the only one who comes close to being a genuine all rounder in the Indian team. Captain Dhoni's picks for all arounders like Ravinder Jadeja and Piyush Chawla have been a total embarrassment, so he probably has lost hope of backing any all rounder in the team. The BCCI bungled yet again by picking Vinay Kumar ahead of Irfan for the Srilanka series but God had other plans.

  • Naresh28 on September 15, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    With injuries and age taking their toll on ZAKS, I think IRFAN can step into those shoes in all formats of the game. My only wish is that India finds more backup bowlers . With batting the talent is there and available - not so with bowling

  • on September 15, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    if he performs constantly,india could not depend upon zaheer khan

  • on September 15, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Irfan is the best All rounder india has produced for over last 2 decades. I still dont know why he was kept out of the team for such a long time.

  • on September 15, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    All the best Irfan.. I am a huge fan of yours .. .You are an asset to the team for your ability to clear the ground and taking wickets with the new ball..... I am really happy with the way you are going....

    I truly agree with you ADI_GUNGALIYA_FANTASY.

  • Joby_George on September 15, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    Irfan is the best All rounder india has produced for over last 2 decades. I still dont know why he was kept out of the team for such a long time.

  • on September 15, 2012, 3:41 GMT

    all the best pathan brothers

  • TSJ07 on September 15, 2012, 3:38 GMT

    @bilalquerashi:-I f partly agree with u that he was used as pinch hitter and he then lost his swing due to his main focus on batting instead of bowling but he was asked to do so by Greg Chappel and not by Indian though captain was Indian.Also he got instant fame at very young age which partly shifted his focus away from cricket. BTW cricketers like Miandad should have have made such idiotic comments.Now plz tell me which Pak player is fast bowling allrounder after Imran and Wasim though Wasim was not true allrounder like Imran,Botham,Kapil,Gary Sobers and my fav Sir Richard Hadlee.

  • on September 15, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    irfan has done very very since his come back he is swinging the new ball and bringing the ball in ..................... taking wickets with new ball ..... but this is real time for him he has too do well in t20i world cup .. if he perform well swings the call takes wickets with the swing then automatically all the mouths of the critics will b shut..........

  • on September 16, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    Irfan has got immense talent that has been underutilized by the Team India. by bad luck he is often out of the team. Now I feel his time has come again. He is a very good batsman too, but India still not utilizing the same. Given adequate opportunity, he could be the best All Rounder after Kapil Dev Lets us all wish Irafan All the best! I am sure future is Irfan's

  • AbAdvani on September 16, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    We all should thank Vinay Kumar -if he had not got injured, Irfan would not have got his second wind back and he would not have been part of the T20 team despite the fact that he is the only one who comes close to being a genuine all rounder in the Indian team. Captain Dhoni's picks for all arounders like Ravinder Jadeja and Piyush Chawla have been a total embarrassment, so he probably has lost hope of backing any all rounder in the team. The BCCI bungled yet again by picking Vinay Kumar ahead of Irfan for the Srilanka series but God had other plans.

  • Naresh28 on September 15, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    With injuries and age taking their toll on ZAKS, I think IRFAN can step into those shoes in all formats of the game. My only wish is that India finds more backup bowlers . With batting the talent is there and available - not so with bowling

  • on September 15, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    if he performs constantly,india could not depend upon zaheer khan

  • on September 15, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Irfan is the best All rounder india has produced for over last 2 decades. I still dont know why he was kept out of the team for such a long time.

  • on September 15, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    All the best Irfan.. I am a huge fan of yours .. .You are an asset to the team for your ability to clear the ground and taking wickets with the new ball..... I am really happy with the way you are going....

    I truly agree with you ADI_GUNGALIYA_FANTASY.

  • Joby_George on September 15, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    Irfan is the best All rounder india has produced for over last 2 decades. I still dont know why he was kept out of the team for such a long time.

  • on September 15, 2012, 3:41 GMT

    all the best pathan brothers

  • TSJ07 on September 15, 2012, 3:38 GMT

    @bilalquerashi:-I f partly agree with u that he was used as pinch hitter and he then lost his swing due to his main focus on batting instead of bowling but he was asked to do so by Greg Chappel and not by Indian though captain was Indian.Also he got instant fame at very young age which partly shifted his focus away from cricket. BTW cricketers like Miandad should have have made such idiotic comments.Now plz tell me which Pak player is fast bowling allrounder after Imran and Wasim though Wasim was not true allrounder like Imran,Botham,Kapil,Gary Sobers and my fav Sir Richard Hadlee.

  • on September 15, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    irfan has done very very since his come back he is swinging the new ball and bringing the ball in ..................... taking wickets with new ball ..... but this is real time for him he has too do well in t20i world cup .. if he perform well swings the call takes wickets with the swing then automatically all the mouths of the critics will b shut..........

  • on September 14, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    come on Irfan......want to see u a leading wicket taker along with best alrounder in worldcup

  • NadeemAbbasi on September 14, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    @STRIKETHUNDER The position of getting hammered for 6 sixes in an over. Very few people has achieved that record and I don't think YOur English skipper Chris Broad record will be equaled anytime soon. I don't think us wish will come true even if you actually put a real club bowler.

  • on September 14, 2012, 19:50 GMT

    well done Irfan pathan you are our hero ,keep it on ,you will become a greatest cricketer (afghani fan) believe me that every daily i am searching news a bout you

  • MunafAhmed811 on September 14, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    @STRIKETHUNDER you say 'high quakity batsmen'. Of course quaKity batsmen, whatever that means can smash even Ajmal,Steyn and Naraine. Seems these are new types of batters. We heard of quality batsmen like Kohli, Amla,Gayle etc ....but pls expalin what is quaKity batsmen as you mention in your post. Do they have 4 hands and bat with 2 bats :P:P:P

  • on September 14, 2012, 18:54 GMT

    Irfan, Praveen, Vinay, Dinda are same kind of bowlers. Irfan should ahead as he can bat very good and should be a fixture in the shorter versions of the game

  • indiancricket143 on September 14, 2012, 17:23 GMT

    mr strikrhunder lets see who will hammered. you think that broad good who hammered by six sixes in a over lets see it will repeat again

  • indiancricket143 on September 14, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    mr smith Robertson ur allrounder never and ever take a hatrick in tests ur great allrounder doesnt find his position to bat either at opening r first down

  • NLS1 on September 14, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    At this stage of his career, Irfan can buy wickets in limited overs games when batsmen are trying for an explosive start, but in longer format of games (even in first class games), he cannot get wickets with his pace. Truth is, at best, he is warming the bench until the next player comes along or one of the current injured pacers gets fit again.

  • on September 14, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Irfan is one of the best all rounders India has produced. He should be playing all three forms especially tests as we need a strong player taking care of bowling and batting. He is the right choice.

  • on September 14, 2012, 15:33 GMT

    irfan is in his peak form now...let him continue this forever and make india proud once again....!

  • STRIKETHUNDER on September 14, 2012, 15:01 GMT

    IRFAN PATHAN IS lucky to be indian team as it has no real bowlers or allrounders. he will be hammered by aussies sa and english batsmen.

  • on September 14, 2012, 14:54 GMT

    Wish Him Best of luck! ( As an Afghanistan Fan) I would love to see Afghan Batsmen's against Irfan pathan's swing bowling! Since Irfan's com back to Indian side he is looking in form! India Need to keep him regularly and also they shoud give him chance in test format of the game he can be good allrounder!!

  • STRIKETHUNDER on September 14, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    IRFAN PATHAN IS A CLUB LEVEL PLAYER SHUD BE REMOVED FROM THE INDIAN TEAM. HE WILL BE HAMMERED BY aussies sa england team. they have high quakity batsmen which irfan has not faced yet. Wish he is hammered for 6 sixes in over.He is lucky since dont have any quality bowlers and allrounders. Stupid guy.

  • on September 14, 2012, 14:31 GMT

    Just another ordinary all-rounder of India. Compare his stats to a real all-rounder like our Watson of Australia and you'll see how incomparable he is to him.

  • Atifkhan3489 on September 14, 2012, 14:25 GMT

    i think slectors of india and pakistan don't make justice with players.pakistani slectors don't pick good batsman in their team and indian slectors don't pick right bowlers in playing XI.if there are good batsman in country it means good bowlers exist in that team but selectors don't pick them.and if bowlers are not bowling to a quality batsman, they can't become good bowler.for god's sake pick best team of the country.these two teams can rule throughout the world if they make justice with players

  • MunafAhmed811 on September 14, 2012, 14:22 GMT

    Irfan is an asset. India does well when he does well

  • rahulcricket007 on September 14, 2012, 14:10 GMT

    i had a feeling that dhoni will select vinay kumar ahead of him in the tournament . remember how he selcted jadeja ahead of pathan in 2009 & 2010 wc .

  • Tiger55 on September 14, 2012, 13:52 GMT

    Time and again Irfan has proved to be a real all rounder.NOW he definatly deserves a place in National Eleven in all the three formats of the game.In Test eleven he can easily replace Suresh Raina and be no. 7 batsman and fill up the vacancy of an all rounder.

  • zuber21886 on September 14, 2012, 13:31 GMT

    if it wasn't Chappell heading in Irfan's younger days, he would have been certainly developed into a senior experience bowler of Inida which Zaheer is experiencing and enjoying right now. His lost talent and experience would have proved a lethal and unique combination. Though he is doing good.

  • timohyj on September 14, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    he has been very impressive with the new ball getting it to swing back in sharply like has alway has, but he is so slow so if he misses the line or length by an inch he gats smashed

  • bilalqureshi7232 on September 14, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    wish him best of luck (a Pakistani Fan), his downfall had a lot to do with the fact that a lot of Indians cricket pandits wants him to be like Wasim Akram to be as quick as him and than also to bat even they batted him number 3 and in the process he lost his concentration on bowling and also his ability to swing it back inwards with the new cherry.

  • 1991-Vijendra.Rathod on September 14, 2012, 12:53 GMT

    I think after the comeback of pathan in Indian Team, he is looking very useful and good allrounder. I am happy pathan has get back his swing bowling and he is a useful batsman also. As my opinion, India should try him as a "pintch hitter" against Afghanistan.

  • on September 14, 2012, 12:51 GMT

    All the best Irfan. You have the talent so you deserve all the success.

  • on September 14, 2012, 12:51 GMT

    All the best Irfan. He will be spearhead for next WC......

  • on September 14, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    Irfan has the heart of a warrior. He refuses to give up and keeps forcing his way back into the team. I wish him good luck for the future.

  • PiyushD on September 14, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    India needs Irfan Pathan, it can not be more clear than that.

  • Narbavi on September 14, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    Irfan, Zaheer and Praveen kumar are currently the three best bowlers in our team, but sadly, one of them has been completely ignored, Dinda seems to be pretty good too considering his domestic performances, anyway good luck to Irfan, he can comeback in to the test side soon and play at no.7!!

  • ADI_GUNGALIYA_FANTASY on September 14, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Irfan will take India towards their Second T20 World Cup. HE will be Man of the Series. Watchout for every batsman as he is back with a bang.

  • YogifromNY on September 14, 2012, 12:16 GMT

    Good luck, Irfan! You deserve to be in this team. Hope and pray you and the team succeed spectacularly!

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  • YogifromNY on September 14, 2012, 12:16 GMT

    Good luck, Irfan! You deserve to be in this team. Hope and pray you and the team succeed spectacularly!

  • ADI_GUNGALIYA_FANTASY on September 14, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Irfan will take India towards their Second T20 World Cup. HE will be Man of the Series. Watchout for every batsman as he is back with a bang.

  • Narbavi on September 14, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    Irfan, Zaheer and Praveen kumar are currently the three best bowlers in our team, but sadly, one of them has been completely ignored, Dinda seems to be pretty good too considering his domestic performances, anyway good luck to Irfan, he can comeback in to the test side soon and play at no.7!!

  • PiyushD on September 14, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    India needs Irfan Pathan, it can not be more clear than that.

  • on September 14, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    Irfan has the heart of a warrior. He refuses to give up and keeps forcing his way back into the team. I wish him good luck for the future.

  • on September 14, 2012, 12:51 GMT

    All the best Irfan. He will be spearhead for next WC......

  • on September 14, 2012, 12:51 GMT

    All the best Irfan. You have the talent so you deserve all the success.

  • 1991-Vijendra.Rathod on September 14, 2012, 12:53 GMT

    I think after the comeback of pathan in Indian Team, he is looking very useful and good allrounder. I am happy pathan has get back his swing bowling and he is a useful batsman also. As my opinion, India should try him as a "pintch hitter" against Afghanistan.

  • bilalqureshi7232 on September 14, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    wish him best of luck (a Pakistani Fan), his downfall had a lot to do with the fact that a lot of Indians cricket pandits wants him to be like Wasim Akram to be as quick as him and than also to bat even they batted him number 3 and in the process he lost his concentration on bowling and also his ability to swing it back inwards with the new cherry.

  • timohyj on September 14, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    he has been very impressive with the new ball getting it to swing back in sharply like has alway has, but he is so slow so if he misses the line or length by an inch he gats smashed