Cricket News
Pathan sent back

DURBAN, Dec 25: Something like this has never happened in Indian cricket. 

Irfan Pathan’s turbulent career received a further setback when it was decided that the young Baroda paceman would be sent back home to rediscover his forgotten craft. “We, the team management, chairman of selectors and Irfan himself have decided that it is in his best interest that he goes to India and plays the next two Ranji Trophy matches on January 2 and 10,” captain Rahul Dravid said while insisting that the youngster was important to India’s plans in the near and long-term future Pathan has picked 91 Test wickets from 25 matches at an average of 30.79 and is only the second Indian bowler to pick up a hat-trick but his recent slide has been too dramatic to be ignored any longer.

At that point, of course, very few knew about the turmoil in his mind and the approaching gloom. It was only when Dravid arrived to address the customary press conference that the big news was eventually broken: Pathan is being sent home. 

"Irfan's not getting as much cricket as we wanted him to in this series," explained Dravid. "We feel it's in his best interests to go back and play some Ranji Trophy games and regain his form and confidence," he added.

A few days ago, Irfan Pathan spoke to Kiran More, the secretary of the Baroda Cricket Association. The left-arm medium-pacer expressed his wish to play Ranji Trophy when he returned home from South Africa in January. His wishes have been answered earlier than expected. 

"We have matches from January 2 (home, vs UP) and on Jan 10 (away, vs TN)," said More. "He will certainly play one of the two matches." 

A couple of weeks ago, Board secretary Niranjan Shah had commented that players who did not perform well would be called back. "Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar spoke to the other selectors and team management. They felt that Pathan would be better off playing Ranji matches. They did not want any replacement too," said Shah from Rajkot. 

Meanwhile, Pathan's long-time coach Mehdi Shaikh has said that Pathan's problems were merely technical and could be easily rectified. "Small errors have crept into his run-up and delivery stride," said Shaikh from Baroda, "These can be corrected at the nets." 

Shaikh also felt that too many people were trying to help Pathan. "If I am going to some place and ask for directions to five different people, obviously I will be lost. I feel that if he had idolised Wasim Akram and taken tips from him, he should have stuck with the Pakistani captain," he said. 

Pathan losing his lethal inswinger to the right-handers was the first sign of his lack of form. "Whenever one is out-of-form one is mentally disturbed. And it is difficult to regain it without proper guidance, and that's where the seniors and coach come into play," said Shaikh. 

Shaikh also felt that owing to the packed international schedule, Irfan had not been able to get time to rectify his mistakes. 

So, will playing in the Ranji Trophy be a blessing in disguise? "It won't be easy because Irfan will be under a lot of pressure. He will think that if he does not perform instantly in the Ranji matches, he may not be selected for India," said Shaikh. 

And what's Shaikh's advise to Pathan? "Start afresh, instead of mulling over past failures. Thinking about the past only clogs one's mind. Think that you are a new player and everything will fall into place." 
Dravid also drew upon the example of Stephen Harmison of England to explain Pathan’s dilemma. “He is a young kid and is not the only one who has gone through such worries in international cricket. Only recently a bowler as good as Harmison was being criticised for struggling badly. It can happen when you are young.

“I remember just before the home series against Pakistan, Pathan was struggling. He went to county cricket, played a lot of games and bowled a lot of overs and he was okay.”

Quick Rise, Quick Fall 

2000-01: Makes first-class debut for Baroda 

2001-02: Plays under-19 World Cup in New Zealand 

2001-02: Takes 10 wickets in debut Duleep Trophy match 

2003-04: Takes 9/16 in a one-dayer against a Bangladesh U-19 side during an Asia Cup match in Lahore, Pakistan 

2003-04: Chosen for Australia tour despite objections from then-skipper Sourav Ganguly 

Makes Test debut at Adelaide (second Test) 

Makes ODI debut at Melbourne 

Before first India tour to Pakistan in 15 years, then Pakistan coach Javed Miandad takes a jibe at Irfan Pathan, says "Bowlers like Irfan are there on every street in Pakistan". Irfan hits back with the ball, bowls India to famous Test and ODI series wins with Balaji and Kumble 

2004: Voted ICC's Emerging Player at first Player Awards in London 

2004-05: Scores first fifty in Test cricket against Australia at Bangalore 

Takes first five-wicket haul in Test cricket against Bangladesh at Dhaka (5-45). Picks up 10 in the match (6-51 in the second innings) 

Dropped from the team for the first time during the ODI series at home against Pakistan owing to poor form 

2005-06: Takes first 5-wicket haul in a ODI against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe during a tri-series 

Promoted to No 3 spot in ODIs, to maximise scoring by coach Greg Chappell 

Opens for the first time in a Test innings at Delhi against Sri Lanka owing to injury to V Sehwag 

Creates a new record. Picks up a hat-trick off the first three balls of a Test match against Pakistan at Karachi. Salman Butt, Younis Khan and Mohd Yousuf. Takes first five-wicket haul against a top Test playing team 

2006: Dropped from the Test team for the first time during the Test series in West Indies, retained in the side, plays just one Test match at Gros Islet, St Lucia on the tour 

2006-07: Dropped from the team for the first Test in South Africa. Before the second Test sent home to play domestic cricket

Irfan Pathan's rise and apparent fall couldn't have been swifter for any player. Just three years ago, he burst on the scene like a swinging and speeding missile; not much later, he proved himself with the bat too, to be hailed as the next big all-rounder. 

But since then, as rapidly, his bowling has virtually come apart. The pace has vanished while the inswinging yorkers too have gone into hiding. The other day, as batsman after batsman carved him around, he looked like a little boy thrown in the midst of lions. In sheer frustration, he could only come up with two beamers. 

"Irfan is a very important member for us, leading into the World Cup and all the other important tournaments," insisted Dravid. "He is very much a part of our short-term and long-term plans," he added. "He himself also feels that it would be best if he could have some bowling." 

According to sources, the decision was taken only on Sunday night, jointly by the coaching staff and the senior management group. Greg Chappell, Vengsarkar and Dravid even spoke to him separately to make him understand the logic and purpose behind the move. 

Pathan had first hit a trough in the home series against Pakistan in 2004-05. He came out of it by going and playing on the county circuit. The problem came to a head when his bowling was analysed threadbare on television and the root cause was identified: loss of pace. 

Apparently, he tried to regain it and lost his rhythm and confidence even more. 

He was taken to various doctors, right from Andy Roberts, Jeff Thomson to Wasim Akram, but there was no sight of a remedy. 

His bowling continued to dip and it was only after the mauling by a handful of club cricketers that the severity of the problem was appreciated. 

Dravid, however, is confident that he will be back in the team soon. "He is just 22 and not the only one in international cricket who's had to go through something like this. It can happen, especially when you're young." 

Hopefully, the smile and the inswinging yorker will be back soon, and in good measure.


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