Seventeen years after he became a cult hero in India, Irfan Pathan has called time on his professional career. The left-arm swing bowling allrounder burst on the scene by dismissing Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist in a sensational spell of reverse swing bowling in Sydney in January 2004 and three years later went on to become a World T20 champion.
"I knew I was not going to make an international comeback after 2016," Irfan told Star Sports. "I was the highest wicket-taker and the best allrounder that season (2015-16) in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy but I wasn't picked. The selectors were not very happy with my bowling, I was told. Around 2016, I knew my time was up."
Irfan hit the headlines in November 2003 when he picked up 9 for 16 in an Under-19 clash against Bangladesh in Lahore. He was to be part of India's Under-19 World Cup plans in 2004, but was fast-tracked to the Indian squad for the tour of Australia in 2003-04. After sitting out of the first Test, he was called in to replace an injured Zaheer Khan in the now-famous Adelaide Test, well remembered for Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar's exploits.
Irfan finished with 29 Tests, 120 ODIs and 24 T20Is that brought him 100, 173 and 28 wickets respectively. He last played for India more than seven years ago, during the World T20 in 2012, but continued to be a regular presence in the domestic circuit.
He made his debut for Baroda in the 2000-01 season and went on to captain the state before switching to Jammu & Kashmir in a player-mentor capacity in March 2018. His last competitive game was in February 2019.
In 2006, Irfan became only the second Indian after Harbhajan Singh to take a Test hat-trick - against Pakistan (Karachi 2006) and was Player of the Final in India's historic T20 World Cup win in September 2007. Overall, he picked up 10 wickets at 14.90 in the tournament, including a crucial 3 for 16 against Pakistan in that final.
Later that year, Irfan made a maiden Test century, also against Pakistan. His Test career hit an even higher note when he starred with both bat and ball during India's historic win in Perth on the 2007-08 tour. It was India's first win at the storied venue.
Irfan finished that Test with five wickets and scores of 28 and 46, which came from No. 3 in the second innings to help arrest a top-order wobble. He would play only two more Tests, the last of which came against South Africa at Ahmedabad in 2008.
"People starting peaking in their careers around 27-28 and then go on to play till they are 35. When I was 27, I had taken 301 international wickets, and that was it," Irfan said. "That's the only regret I have, that I wish I could have taken that tally up to 500 or 600 wickets and scored more runs, but that did not happen."
Though his international career hit a dead end, he was a prominent feature in the IPL until 2016. In all, he represented Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils, Gujarat Lions, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rising Pune Supergiant.
Over the last two years, Irfan has risen to become a sought-after commentator and Hindi cricket analyst in India. He also runs a cricket academy in Vadodara, which he founded with his older half-brother Yusuf Pathan.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo