Could’ve been India’s best-ever all-rounder in ODIs but I was sidelined: Irfan Pathan on what went wrong with his India career
“In terms of achievement, there could have been a lot more. I really believe that in One-Day Internationals I could have been the best all-rounder that India ever produced, I could have been. That didn’t happen because I didn’t play as much cricket as I could have because my last game for India was at the age of 27,” said Irfan Pathan.Updated: Jun 20, 2020, 23:55 IST
Irfan Pathan feels he had the potential to become India’s best all-rounder of all time, had a few things panned out differently in his career. Pathan burst on to the scene as a 19-year-old quick who would bamboozle opponents with his swing, before he later began focussing on his batting.
But injuries had a role to play in Pathan being in and out of the team. At an age when bowlers usually peak, Pathan played his last match for India, but the 35-year-old has few regrets looking back upon what could have been an even more promising India career.
“In terms of achievement, there could have been a lot more. I really believe that in One-Day Internationals I could have been the best all-rounder that India ever produced, I could have been. That didn’t happen because I didn’t play as much cricket as I could have because my last game for India was at the age of 27,” Pathan told Rediff.com.
“I think if you play till 35, things would have been better, but that’s gone, it’s done and dusted. Whatever matches I played, I played as a match-winner, I played as a guy who made the difference to the team. Even if I took one wicket - the first wicket for the match - that made a big impact on the team. Whatever innings I played with the bat, I played to make a difference.”
Pathan had a rampant start to his career, becoming the fastest Indian bowler to take 100 ODI wickets (in 59 matches). The record stood for 13 years before Mohammed Shami broke it. But as things progressed, Pathan’s role changed. From a new-ball bowler, he went on to become the first or second change. From 100 wickets in 59 games, Pathan’s next 73 would require another 61 matches.
Later on, Pathan began focussing on his batting and even though the allrounder scored a maiden Test century, people felt it affected his batting. As far as the players himself is concerned, he would mind whatever role he served in the team, but feels the team and players could have backed the all-rounder further instead of side-lining him.
“If you see the first 59 ODI matches that I played, I got to bowl with the new ball. And when you are the new ball bowler, you get the opportunity to bowl with the new ball as well as the old ball. Your aim, your mindset, your body language and your responsibility is to take wickets. But when you are bowling first change, your role changes as well, your role becomes defensive,” Irfan said.
“When you are bowling first change, when you are a defensive bowler according to your captain and coach, you have to play the role of containing the runs. You have to make sure that you don’t give away too many runs. So, if your role becomes different, then your numbers also become different as well.
“I actually feel that people from the team should have spoken about it. They should have said that, ‘Yes Irfan used to take wickets, but now we have given him a different role. We have given him the role of first change bowler and someone who can bat at No 7 or No 8, which is very much required in One-Day cricket right now.’
Pathan repeatedly battled injuries and match form which led to his ouster from the Indian team, but whenever he would open the bowling for India, the bowler would be at his peak. The last match he played for India, Pathan picked up a five-wicket haul – against Sri Lanka in August 2012, while operating with the new ball.
How many fast bowlers can you think of to have never played a match again after grabbing a five-for?
“If you look at the numbers, it suddenly started changing when I started bowling with the new ball again in 2012,” Pathan said. “When I came back into the Indian team, I took five wickets as well in my last match. I am not saying that I could only bowl with the new ball. No, I was ready to bowl with the old ball, I was ready to bowl with the new ball as well. But in a team game, when you have a different role, your numbers reflect differently.”