Cricket’s lost talents: Irfan Pathan – India’s next Kapil Dev that never was

Born in Baroda, Irfan Pathan was once considered India’s next Kapil Dev. In fact, comparisons had started a couple of years after his emergence. Irfan, 19, made his debut in the famous 2003 Adelaide Test, in which Team India made a history by winning the Test on Australian soil after 23 years. Though he failed to make an impact in the debut Test series, he had an amazing ODI series that followed. Irfan remained a core member of the team until a decline in form during 2006, which led him out of the team.

Irfan began his career as a fast-medium swing and seam bowler. Pathan broke into the national team soon after turning 19, and evoked comparisons with Pakistani great Wasim Akram with his promising performances and prodigious swing. In early 2006, Pathan became the only bowler to take a Test hat-trick in the first over of the match. However, after the start of 2016, Irfan began to lose pace and swing, and his wicket-taking ability dwindled. However, thought his batting continued to be productive, he was not regarded as a specialist and was dropped from the team in both Tests and ODIs by the end of 2006 and by 2007 was no longer in the squad until return in 2007 World T20I. Since then, he could never cement his place in the side and he was in and out of the team.

Pathan was instrumental in India’s ODIs and Test series wins in Pakistan in 2004. He was described by the media as the “blue-eyed boy” of the Indian cricket. There was talent to back up the hype, but dips in form, constant injuries and fitness concerns never allowed him to fulfil his potential. As a bowler, Irfan concentrates not only on swing but also is game to keep learning new tricks. He manages to swing the new ball as well as the old ball. The Baroda born talent has done quite a bit with the willow as well.

Within a couple of years in international cricket, he was considered as India’s answer to the drought of all-rounder. But the successful initial years were followed by a few flop series in 2005, which saw Pathan being dropped from the India squad. Irfan was recalled to the Indian team for inaugural World T20 in 2007, and he did not disappoint as he clinched 10 wickets at an average of 14.90. His 3 for 16 in the mega final against Pakistan not only handed him the Man of the Match award, but also gave India their first WT20 win in its maiden edition.

Irfan’s performance in at the inaugural WT20I final, earned him a recall into the ODI team, where he was a regular for most of next 12 months before being dropped again because of his economy started being dropped. In late 2007, Pathan made a comeback in Test after 19 months and hit his maiden Test century, but couldn’t manage to maintain his place in the team as his bowling was not affective. Pathan played his last Test against South Africa in 2008. An important member of the Kings XI Punjab then in the Indian Premier League, he was ruled out of action after the 2010 season. However, he returned in 2011 and was signed by the Delhi Daredevils.

Irfan also managed to impress the selectors in the 2011-12 Ranji season, which earned him ODI call against West Indies. Then he was included in the ODI series against Sri Lanka where he emerges as the highest-wicket taker. That performance did a world of good to him, granting him a deserving place in the 2012 World Twenty20 squad. In March 2013, he made a comeback from his knee injury. But shockingly, this year no franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) showed their interest to buy the all-rounder during the players’ auction. But in the mid 2017 season, Pathan was brought by Gujarat Lions as a replacement of Dwayne Bravo.

This adds Irfan Pathan, along with players such as Vinod Kambli and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, in the list of ‘India’s lost Boys’.

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