Irfan Pathan will turn 33 this month and even though it has been five years since he played his last ODI or T20I, nine years since his last Test, but the left arm seamer continues to dream about returning and representing the country. With plenty of changes and options for the current setup, his chances look slim but he isn’t reduced to an afterthought – especially if you see what the fans think.
“Even if I want to forget (the glittering moments), you know, my fans won’t let me forget, which is good, which is great,” he tells ESPNCricinfo in a candid conversation. “That keeps me going as well.”
He’s been named captain of the Baroda Ranji Trophy team and the season hasn’t begun on a bright note – for him or the team. They were beaten by Madhya Pradesh in the opener before drawing with Andhra Pradesh. He failed with the bat against Andhra while scoring 80 against Madhya Pradesh. Pathan adds that the season began early for him to ready himself mentally. “I started early this season and I’m doing everything that I could to hopefully achieve my dream in the future,” he says. This season is going to be very, very crucial. I know that I’m – you know, I’m standing on thin ice.”
Ever since playing his last ODI against Sri Lanka in 2012, he hasn’t given the selectors good reason to pick him. In the 17 List A games, he’s picked 19 wickets and scored 298 runs. The picture doesn’t get better in the glittering show of the IPL too. Gujarat Lions did call him up after going unpicked in the auction but he did little of note in the solitary game he featured in.
Away from the disappointing numbers, Pathan feels the deeper picture is about the injuries he suffered and the pressure he added on himself by over-pushing.
“I was playing a Champions League game, the semi-final,” he remembers. “We lost the game. The same night we took a flight [back to India]. A couple of days in between and I played a three-day game against England. Third day, the last day, I took a flight to Baroda. From the next day onwards, I played a Ranji Trophy game against Karnataka. I scored a hundred in that game, bowled more than 20 overs in an innings, so I played about nine days continuously.”
“My knee flared up and I got a fracture. So, in ten days I took an international flight, played a T20 game, came to India, I was still jet-lagged, played a three-day game, scored 45 against England, bowled more than 20-25 overs [19 overs], took a flight on the third day, played the Ranji Trophy whole game, and on the last day I got injured. Who plays that? No one plays seven days of continuous first-class cricket. So that was my commitment and eventually I got injured.”
“That experience made me a person who sees the larger picture, and, you know, made me who I am. So there is no regret, but looking back in terms of, you know, when you said there [has not been much] first-class cricket – because of so many other reasons as well. It’s easy for someone to write that he played less first-class cricket.”
“I haven’t talked about this but this is what happened before I got injured. So, if not me, even the fittest guy would get like, you know – in terms of energy, people used to call me powerhouse because I can go on the whole day and energy was never an issue, but managing workload sometimes was an issue with me. Sometimes I used to overwork, so that was a main issue and this was happening exactly that way. I needed help as well, and I asked for help and I didn’t get help.”
“I was regular member of [the side in] one-day cricket,” he says. “I was Man of the Match in my last match before I got injured. I wanted to make a comeback to Test cricket, so what I was doing? What I did was, came back, took a flight, in nine days I played a three-day game, I played a four-day game. I asked the question to someone that, you know, these are so many days – you know, in this little span of time, [am I going to have to play] so much cricket? I got an answer, ‘If you’re going to play, if you’re going to make a comeback to Test cricket, you play.'”
“Then I played. I wish I was smart enough not to play, but I didn’t know that I was going to get injured. I think people just sometimes want to say things, they just want to talk without having the real facts,” he added.