The New Year threw up quite a few surprises in the India cricket team selection. How else can one explain the inclusion of 36-year-old Ashish Nehra, who failed to make the playing XI for Delhi’s T20 squad, in the Australia bound T20 squad.
Nehra’s inclusion has given hope to many former first team members, like Irfan Pathan, who is making a fresh case for his inclusion with his all-round show in the domestic T-20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Pathan, who last donned India colours against South Africa in 2012 has the numbers to back that claim. With 16, he is the highest wicket taker with a 6.85 economy rate in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and averages 47.50 with a healthy strike rate of 154 with the bat.
With India playing host to the World Twenty20 the left arm all-rounder could be one of the options available for the national selectors. Talking to HT, Irfan, 31, says he has a lot to offer. Excerpts:
Q: Few of the veterans have made their come back into the Indian team recently. Do you think you still have a chance?
A: My job is to play cricket and taking wickets is what keeps me motivated. I am happy with the way I am bowling now and I have regained my confidence. In my last match I caught Sanju Samson in front (LBW) – this only happens if I am bowling well. I am happy that my hard work is reflecting in my performance. But I think I have still a lot to offer. If Ashish Nehra can make a comeback at the age of 36, I am only 31.
Q: You seem very confident…
A: I don’t want to talk about my come back. But it is everyone’s dream to play for the country. The good thing is the fact that senior players are being given a chance and we as players have to keep performing, stay fit and hope to get picked.
Q: How you do assess yourself this season?
A: I am enjoying my cricket and that is something I want to keep doing. I am the highest wicket taker in Mushtaq Ali so far. My batting is also going as well. I have a strike rate of 150. So yes everything is going well for me this season. But obviously who plays first class cricket, wants to represent their country and I am no different.
Q: Your bowling has improved a lot this season. Did you work on it during the off-season?
A: I have been in touch with TA Saker Sir. Bowling is not something like batting where you take a little break and come back. For a bowler, you need to consistently work on your rhythm. I have bowled 25 overs in an innings in most of the First Class matches this season. Normally I bowl six overs with the new ball, sometimes more. I have bowled nine or ten overs spell in the third or fourth spell too. What is satisfying is the fact that even if I am bowling at a later stage, I still have the rhythm and zip and that his helping me to get the wickets.