Thanks to the war of words between the India captain and two aspiring candidates, cricket appears to have taken a backseat over the last week or so. However, if one man has shown that he can help India make it to the finals of the CB Series, it is Irfan Pathan.
It was Irfan's accurate bowling at the death that helped India pull Sri Lanka back before the last two overs by Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli let things slip again. Then, had it not been for his 47 runs, India would have failed to prevent Sri Lanka from earning a bonus point.
Irfan, after justifying his selection in the XI, will have to play if India are to stay alive in the tri-series by winning Sunday's game against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
The SCG hasn't been a happy hunting for Irfan, who made a comeback during the last ODI against the West Indies in December after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus. Despite Irfan's presence, Dhoni said the team lacked a fast-bowling all-rounder. And, when he played his first game of the tournament — against Sri Lanka at Adelaide — he was asked to bat as low as No 9.
Yet, he hit a key six that helped India tie the match and earn two vital points. Irfan, who was frequently utilised at the top of the order during his earlier stints, seems to have taken it in his stride.
“What you have done in the past is totally in the past. You have to look at the current scenario. Ashwin has batted well, and he has a Test hundred. You want to get higher but have to be realistic too,” he said on Friday.
All along the interaction, Irfan kept stressing on "short term plans, not think too much ahead", which confirmed that he has evolved as a cricketer. "Like in the last two games, I was not supposed to play but I played, so I am confident."
After Irfan's performance in the three games, it will be difficult for the team management to keep him on the sidelines over the next two games.