Irfan Pathan was once the poster boy of Indian cricket. Did he live up to the billing? He looked back at his mixed career after announcing retirement on Saturday.
How has the journey been?
Fulfilling. Where I started and where I reached. From not having the shoes, to using second hand shoes, to stitching my own shoes, getting a sponsorship deal of shoes to donating shoes to others…everything has been fantastic. God has been kind to me. I had everything – I had my share of successes and failures. Above all I became a better man because of cricket.You were once the golden boy of Indian cricket and then what happened…?
I know where you are coming from. There was a time when I was the golden boy…I was on the posters, I was bowling with the new ball, I was batting up the order. There was also time when I was not bowling with the new ball and I did not bat up the order. If you remember in 2009 (in T20), when I and my brother won a game against Sri Lanka…people won’t know I was dropped from the next series. No reason was ever given to me. So, I have [been through] a lot, from being the poster boy of Indian cricket to the lost boy. Yes, I could have added to the tally of wickets but what is fulfilling is the love of fans. I played my last international game in 2012 and in 2020 people still say, ‘ Yaar comeback kab kar rahe ho.’
Coming to specifics, what was the problem with your bowling – pace, swing or too many advices?
Yes, people do give advices, but it is up to you to decide how much advice you should take. Indian cricket is about perception. You should understand the variance of swing in the first 10 and last 10 overs. My role was changed, and I was told to contain which means I did not have the freedom to experiment. You take wickets when you gamble a little. So, people started having different perception about my bowling after my role was changed. Now I can’t say why no one from the team management came out to clarify that my role had been changed. The fact of the matter was I did what was expected of me by the team management.
You spoke of swing. It was big in Pakistan in the 2006 Karachi Test, in the Perth Test (2008) and then disappeared. I had a career-threatening injury and because of this I could not play for 18 months. L 3, L 5, right leg, S 1…I had all kinds of injuries. I got them scanned in Mumbai and Bangalore and nothing could be detected but I would have constant pain. When the BCCI sent me to Australia, my injury was detected in the very first scan. I worked for one year and made a comeback after Patrick Farhart had told me that my cricket was finished and if don’t give up, I would not be able to even walk. I was made a comeback in 2011.
Did you ever think of turning into a specialist batsman? Not really. I wish I had more chances up the order. But such a thought never crossed my mind.
Do you think the coaches did not handle you well – the Wrights, the Chappells, the Kirstens and the Fletchers?
My first coach in the Indian team was John Wright and he was a fantastic coach. Greg Chappell had different ideas and he would push youngsters to play the hardest cricket. Duncan Fletcher was a pretty good coach as well. They all meant good for the Indian team, but Indian team can be a complicated thing sometimes. Was 2007 South Africa (the World T20) the high point?
That’s right but 2012 was a high point as well. I got two back-to-back man of the match awards. After that I got injured again. I feel very happy for Saha (Wriddhiman). He did not play a single game for a year during which time Rishabh Pant scored two centuries. Saha was back since he was out of the team because of an injury, not due to performance. I hoped for the same in 2012 when I was out of the team due to an injury. Yes, the 2007 World Twenty20 was special in the same way as the CB series in Australia, Perth 2008, 2006 hattrick and the first India cap. The biggest high point was that every time I ran in to bowl, the team, the captain and the fans would expect me to take a wicket.
Any advice for youngsters? When you get a big IPL contract, you don’t forget cricket. It is important to remember that cricket got you that contract. If you remember that, you will be able to maximise your achievements.
Is there a new Irfan Pathan lurking anywhere? My job will be to find a player who would be better than Irfan Pathan. I am working with the J&K team, I hope there will be many players from there .
What’s next for you?
I am an all-rounder, I will do whatever it takes to achieve satisfaction. I will continue commentary with Star Sports, coaching, social work and I am also now doing a film.
Finally, can you recall the day when both you and Yusuf (Pathan) landed over $ 4 million contract from IPL auction? “I remember that day very vividly. I was not with my family, but I was following the auction. It was unbelievable when the franchises were raising the paddle for us. When I spoke to my family, genuinely, we felt Yakeen Nahi Ho Raha Hai.”
Irfan Pathan thanks VengsarkarAfter announcing retirement, Irfan called Dilip Vengsarkar to thank him for his support. Irfan particularly thanked the former chief selector for selecting him for the West Zone team for the Duleep Trophy even before he could play for his state, Baroda. Vengsarkar was impressed by Irfan and Parthiv Patel’s talent during the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand way back in 2002. Vengsarkar then was the chairman of the talent resource and development wing of the BCCI.