For some sportsmen, success comes before the lows. Ifran Pathan seems to belong to this category. A very impressive international debut following a wave of good times that included being adjudged the ICC's Most Promising Newcomer was soon forgotten because of a combination of fitness and form-related problems.
So much so that the young allrounder saw himself being overtaken by a number of others and his place in the India team, which looked automatic at one time, became a distant possibility. After a few seasons in the wilderness and having overcome a left knee injury, Irfan is now looking forward to the good times again.
Following a successful Ranji Trophy season, during which he emerged Baroda's most successful bowler and batsman, the southpaw is looking ahead to the challenges ahead starting with West Zone's Duleep Trophy match against North from Tuesday. “Yes, I have witnessed the phase of life which every sportsman dreads but few can avoid,” Irfan told HT.
“Even though I didn't enjoy this period, it has taught me a few important lessons. That success is not guaranteed and bad times are inevitable. At the same time, I have learnt not to burden myself with thoughts of returning to the Indian side. I must enjoy my game, try my best and that's what I have done. The Duleep Trophy is a good stage to test myself.”
Irfan felt, of the five Ranji games he played and led Baroda in, the first three were not great.
“The numbers were there in terms of runs and wickets, but I was close to where I want to be only in the last two (against Saurashtra and Maharashtra). It takes a while to get back to rhythm when you are coming back from injury. That way, the last two games were pretty satisfying.
“After the Ranji games I have had almost a month to get better, so the Duleep match is crucial for me to assess how I have improved.” Paras Mhambrey, who was the coach of Baroda till the end of the Ranji season before joining Mumbai Indians as assistant coach, felt Irfan's real test comes now.
“He showed signs of getting back to where he was. I haven't seen him for close to a month now. But going by the way he was shaping up, he should be in a position to do better now, provided he has worked hard in this period.”
Mhambrey reckoned Irfan's trademark incoming deliveries against right-handers are still not as sharp as they used to be. “I would say he is 70 per cent there. That's natural because it takes time to get back to one's best when one his returning from injury. As I said earlier, what he has done in the last month will play an important role in what he does now.”
On his part, Irfan has worked on his game, fitness and played a few club matches in Baroda. The next few days should tell how fruitful this time spent will be in helping one of India's most promising players of recent times.