Many Indian cricketers have proven that lack of resources is not an excuse to give up on your dreams, and have reached at the highest level in international cricket. Irfan Pathan still tops that list, and was one such player who came from extremely humble background and became an absolute fans favourite due to his outstanding performances for India in all formats of the game. Making debut for India in 2003, his ability to swing the new ball both ways immediately drew comparisons with Wasim Akram and was named the ICC emerging player of the year in 2004.
In 2006, he took the famous first over hattrick in the Karachi test against Pakistan, and became the first and the only bowler till date to do so.
Irfan’s swinging deliveries made life difficult for batsmen all around the globe.
In 2005, Greg Chappell took over as India’s coach and saw Irfan’s batting potential and promoted him in the batting order many times, and he played some crucial innings. Irfan rose to No.2 in the all-rounders ranking in ODIs. Some critics believed that too much focus on improving Irfan’s batting affected his bowling, and he lost that insane swing somewhere.
However, Irfan rejected all such claims. Irfan took and economical 3 wickets haul in the final of the 2007 T20 World Cup and became Man of the Match, in which his brother Yusuf also made his debut for India. Irfan was also part of Indian team which won the ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2013.
A big name in the Indian Premier League (IPL), both the Pathan brothers fetched lot of moolahs during the initial parts of the tournament.
In 2015, Irfan was united with his long-time friend and skipper MS Dhoni in the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) camp. He was injured initially but then not picked. He missed out on 17 matches and even the likes of Ronit More (a young pacer with handful of experience) were preferred ahead of him.That is not all, new franchise Rising Pune Supergainsts (RPS) named Dhoni as their skipper for the 2016 edition and Irfan’s stupendous show in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy saw him being bought by RPS. Not only did he lead Baroda to the runners-up position but also ended with most wickets at 15.76. Adding 200 runs to that at 40 and at a strike rate of almost 153. In fact, he almost made it to India’s Asia Cup and ICC World T20 2016 squads but keeping the subcontinent conditions in mind, they went ahead with the spin bowling all-rounder option of Pawan Negi.
From a national team contender in T20s to someone once again cooling heels in the dugout, Irfan’s fortunes did not change. He spent the first two games for RP Singh the dugout. In fact, Dhoni chose his dear friend RP Singh ahead of Irfan. Who can forget the infamous RP recall in the 2011 when Dhoni summoned the bowler from his vacation, to England. An unfit RP delivered by bowling an over, which was termed, the worst first over in history of Test cricket’ by another great all-rounder, Ian Botham. Now, that is for some other time. It was only after RP went for 51 in his five overs in two games, Irfan was brought in. Guess what? Defending a small total, against Kings XI Punjab, Irfan, who was once India’s strike bowler, was brought into the attack in the 10th over by Dhoni. He went for seven and that was it. He did not bowl any more and was dropped from the next game.
Under Dhoni, in IPL, Irfan has played one match out of the 23 games he could have played and that does not helped the case of a 31-year old skillful all-rounder at that time who was still vying for a national comeback.
One who hasn’t followed Irfan’s career from the beginning might think what is so special about a man who has played just 29 Tests 120 ODIs and 24 T-20Is in 15 years and bagged 301 wickets. But Irfan represented hope. Coming from extremely humble backgrounds and making it big in the world through sincerity, dedication and talent, Irfan’s was the perfect rags to riches story. He represented the dreams of countless Indians who were in similar situations themselves. And his fall was thus taken personally by the common Indian cricket enthusiast.
Irfan became an example for all the young cricketers to fulfil their dreams despite acute difficulties. Staying in a small room with his family of 5 members, he started playing cricket in a Mosque in Vadodara where his father was a muezzin, and turned all the abuses into applause with his hard work and dedication. Perhaps the man, who won Dhoni the inaugural World T20 final in 2007, deserves better than that. Sportnasha pays tribute to Irfan achievements and wish him a very happy 36th Birthday.
By Paramdeep Rathee