From being touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket, to being labelled as India’s lost treasure, Irfan Pathan’s career has seen lot of ups and downs.
With 100 and 173 wickets in Tests and ODIs respectively, apart from 2500-plus international runs, the 28-year-old had the potential to achieve far more.
In the 10th year of his international career, the all-rounder talks to MiD DAY about the lessons he has learnt from the highs and lows, the impact of coach Greg Chappell, injuries and the secret to his success in Twenty20.
You have been bowling well in the IPL, but luck seems to have deserted you as far as wickets are concerned…
It is important to bowl well. I am coming out of a three-month injury (knee) break. I am very happy with the way I am bowling. I have bowled three maidens (the highest in the sixth edition) so far in the IPL and I’m bowling at crucial junctures. As far as the wickets are concerned, I would have liked to add a few more. For me, the most important thing is to bowl well and help my team win every game. Wickets will come, but rhythm-wise I am bowling well. I am feeling good.
How do you manage to bowl so many maidens in T20 cricket?
I always look for wickets. In T20 cricket, one looks for survival whereas I am always looking to attack the batsmen, trying to bowl as many wicket-taking deliveries as I can. A bowler needs to be aggressive in T20s. Sometimes you may go for runs, but there are chances that you’ll end up taking wickets. If you are aggressive, the batsman will try to survive in the middle, and that’s where you have a chance to get his wicket.
I may not have got many wickets, but by being aggressive, I could bowl these maidens in the IPL. So, either you bowl good overs or take wickets. I am happy to do at least one job well. Hopefully, I will also start taking wickets as the tournament progresses.
You have had your fair share of injuries. How do you handle them?
I try to be patient. Things that I cannot control, I just leave them. This is the biggest thing I have learnt in my career. Injuries are far more prevalent in bowlers as compared to batsmen as the workload is too much. There are too many twists and turns that happen while bowling. The main thing is to believe in making a comeback after an injury.
You are the highest wicket-taker (28) for India in T20 internationals. What is your success mantra?
I am lucky to be playing the part of an all-rounder. When I came to know about the record, which people are talking about (only Indian cricketer to score 1000 runs and claim 50 wickets in T20s), it is a privilege. The secret is to believe in your ability and play smartly.
Sometimes you may bowl the best yorker in the world, but it might take an inside edge and go for four. So, it is important not to go into a shell and have a positive body language. At the top level, your confidence and self-belief set you apart from the rest. The other most important thing is your preparation. If you come to the nets and bowl no-balls while trying to be quick, it doesn’t make sense. It is important to have the same discipline in the nets as you have in the match. You have to prepare according to your role in the team.
You played some of your best cricket during Greg Chappell’s tenure as India coach…
I was getting a lot of opportunities during his time. I was batting up the order; was the new-ball bowler. So, all these factors boost your confidence. You tend to perform a lot better with the captain and coach showing so much faith.
A lot of people also blamed him for my loss of form later on. But, I don’t believe in all that talk. If someone is doing well, it is solely his effort. Now, I don’t really care what position I am batting or bowling. I am ready for everything. I am preparing for challenges to bowl in the Powerplays or in the death overs. I want to make sure I make most of my opportunities.
Was it a distraction when experts opined that you must have pace to complement your swing?
(Laughs). People will talk about these things. My job is to take wickets, no matter how. Once you start doing well, these things hardly matter. Pace is not everything. Even the quickest bowlers can go for runs. Shaun Tait is one of the fastest in IPL, but he is not playing regularly for Rajasthan Royals. I am not worried about what others are saying. Whatever I have achieved is because of my talent and hard work. I won’t try to be like someone else.
Do comparisons affect you?
A lot of people have compared me to Kapil Dev and Wasim Akram. It doesn’t affect me. I take it as a compliment. Whatever these greats have achieved is because of their talent and hard work. I would like to play to my potential and make the most of my ability. I don’t look too much into it. But in India, from a chaaiwala to a paanwala you will hear them talking about these things. Sometimes it is tough to ignore, but I do not bother about it.
What have you learnt from your highs and lows?
This game is great teacher. When I started playing, I would get affected if I bowled badly or got out early. I would not talk to anyone, lose my temper. I have learnt to keep my personal and professional life separate. It was wrong on my part to behave badly after a bad performance. I have learnt to stay grounded. When I am playing for India, I am not doing anyone a favour, so, why throw tantrums or show attitude to anyone? Why change your behaviour? There is life after cricket and people will remember you for that as well. I like to keep my life simple.
Do you feel you have under-achieved?
Picture abhi baaki hai (I am not yet done). I have not even completed half of it. So just wait and watch.
How do you look at your form in ODIs and Test cricket?
I am going well as far as one-day cricket is concerned, but Test cricket is where I want to make a mark. My aim is to make a comeback in Tests. There is a lot of cricket that will be played out of India in the coming few years, so I am waiting for that and preparing for those challenges. Selection is not in my hand, but I am mentally and physically preparing for that day.
Did you analyse your lean patch?
The only thing that went wrong is that I tried too hard when things didn’t go my way. I used to get frustrated and stay away from everyone… not talk much. But now, I don’t get frustrated. I stay calm whenever things don’t go my way.
There are a lot of things that I would like to talk about, but I would like to focus on the positives that happened.
Your elder brother Yusuf recently got married. When is yours?
Not soon. I have a lot of dreams to realise before that. Marriage is a responsibility and I want to make sure I am fully focused. Whoever that girl would be, I want to be a very good husband. I am not ready for that right now.
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