Pakistan's Mohammad Irfan in line for IPL contract
Mohammad Irfan, the fast bowler from Pakistan, has reached an agreement with Kolkata Knight Riders to play for them in IPL 2011, though only after the BCCI approves the deal. Irfan shot to prominence after an impressive debut season in Pakistan - watch him bowl here - and was nearly selected in their World Twenty20 squad in May.
Irfan, a left-arm fast bowler who is nearly seven foot tall, is among the tallest cricketers in the world and he impressed Kolkata with performances on a development tour of Sri Lanka with them. He had been recommended to the franchise by Wasim Akram, Kolkata's bowling consultant. As Irfan is not yet a Pakistan international, he does not need to go through an auction process and can be signed directly by a franchise.
"I have signed for KKR for the fourth edition of IPL," Irfan told The Express Tribune. "I was called by them to Sri Lanka on the recommendation of Wasim Akram and they were impressed by my performance in the three matches. I played two Twenty20s and a one-day match against a side that included a number of Sri Lankan international and A team players."
Cricinfo understands, however, that Irfan and Kolkata have a Memorandum of Understanding, which will only become a contract once approval from the BCCI is forthcoming. This may not be as straightforward as it sounds, given the difficulties Pakistan players have had with the IPL. In the league's first season in 2008, a number of players from Pakistan appeared in the tournament, but deteriorating political ties between the two countries in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai in November that year meant no Pakistani played in the last two seasons of the IPL.
The PCB decided against sending their players in 2009 but their absence from 2010 was more contentious and troubled. The Pakistan players were cleared to be part of the auction pool but none of the franchises even bid for any of them, ostensibly concerned about player availability because of strained ties between the two governments. Pakistan was upset, however, because their players had been granted the requisite visas, as well as no-objection certificates, from the PCB and cast doubts on the reasons behind the boycott.
If approved, Irfan's contract is understood to be for one year and worth $75,000, with an additional $2000 for every game he appears in. Irfan will also have to get an NOC from the PCB as per IPL regulations and likely rom the Pakistan government as well.
Irfan's rise is one of the more unique stories in Pakistan cricket. He is a product of rural Pakistan, from the town of Gaggu Mandi, which produced another former quick, Mohammad Zahid. He was working in a plastic pipe factory and playing club cricket when a fan-forum cricket website - which heard Irfan's name while talking to Nadeem Iqbal, former fast bowler and now coach in Multan - pushed for his introduction to Aaqib Javed at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
Aaqib was enthused by what he saw and soon after, Irfan debuted for Khan Research Laboratories. He took nine wickets in his second game and ended the season with an impressive 43 in ten games. He came close to national selection when he was named as a replacement for one of the injured seamers for the 2010 World Twenty20, but his name was withdrawn in a typically confused muddle: captain Shahid Afridi and coach Waqaar Younis were keen on taking him along and announced his inclusion, before PCB chairman Ijaz Butt overrode the decision, claiming procedures had been violated in the call-up.