Irfan was the person whom we had earmarked but probably he lacked on the bowling side - Gary Kirsten
So, here's the news first. An all-rounder spot in the Indian side is vacant, a team that's preparing hard to erase all memories of its shoddy performance in 2007's World Cup - you can send in your CV. Speaking of which, did you know that Team India does not have a specialist all-rounder in either the ODI or the Test team? Do we need it? Of course! Besides Irfan Pathan's sweet little cameo, I can hardly recall any other name even being tried as a specialist all-rounder in recent times.
With the World Cup just six months away, coach Gary Kirsten stressed on the fact that the team is in urgent need of an all-rounder. In the last two years, India toyed with Yusuf Pathan, Virat Kohli, Abhishek Nayar among others to fill the slot. Players in Yusuf and Kohli did prove handy with the bat but were less than useful with the leather. Nayar went for a couple of tours - only to warm the benches.
Abhishek Nayar: He was taken off after just three One-Day Internationals. In his debut against West Indies in 2009, Nayar did not even get a chance to bat (India won the match though by 6 wickets). To his pain, the second match got washed away. He got lucky in his last ODI, against West Indies, but was unable to open his account after facing as many as 7 deliveries. Nayar was left speculating where he failed...
Virat Kohli: On the other hand, Virat impressed with his batting pyrotechnics. In his 31 One-dayers, he has managed 1,082 runs with two centuries and eight half-centuries. Kohli's two centuries came against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. However, the fact that he is yet to take a wicket in ODIs bothers the Indian coach.
Yusuf Pathan: He can be the answer to Gary Kirsten's quest for an all-rounder in ODIs. He has taken wickets when given the ball but his contribution with the bat hasn't been too impressive. In 37 matches, Yusuf has claimed 21 wickets with an average of 40.66. However, his batting chart is very lacklustre, with just 376 runs in that period. One of the reasons for his slow progress with the bat is that he comes way down the order and is often found wanting for partners. That Yusuf is a clean hitter of the cricket ball cannot be undermined, but he has mostly been in situations where he had to hit almost every ball himself. His 17 sixes and 31 fours in 37 matches say it all.
In all these, Irfan Pathan is one name that constantly keeps cropping up but the selectors seem to have deleted him from their list of choices. Unfortunately for him, he is even running out of Kirsten's favours now.
"We are looking for an all-rounder for the World Cup. We were looking at Irfan Pathan to fill that role. Probably he lacked a bit. We are looking for an all-rounder who can come in the top six of the batting order during the World Cup. We can't have a guy who is bowling 115 kms and holding up an end and getting one wicket every five matches. He should be able to make a positive contribution. Irfan was the person whom we had earmarked but probably he lacked on the bowling side," Kirsten argued.
Irfan Pathan last played a One-dayer in February 2009 against Sri Lanka. One of the reasons for the above-mentioned quote may be due to Pathan's poor form in the shortest format of the game - i.e., Indian Premier League. If he was not good enough, the selectors should have tried him - at least sent him - to the tri-series in Zimbabwe or the India A side for England. Instead they took Pankaj Singh, Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar - who by no means are close to qualifying for an all-rounder position - not mentioning the fact that they will take ages to make it to the team.
The seam bowler, touted by many as Kapil Dev's successor, did lose his rhythm in the process of becoming a qualified batsman under 'Guru' Greg Chappell. The left-arm sensation burst onto the scene at the age of 19 and impressed many with his swing and seam bowling - and he could also bat. So, it cannot be discounted that he possesses these much-needed skills, just that untimely injuries and increasing competition from new ball bowlers have done him in. Hey, but we are not talking about a specialist bowler here - Team India needs an all-rounder and Irfan has the chops.
After being sent home from a tour of South Africa in 2006, Irfan Pathan has been continuously ignored by Indian selectors. His great fall from the top notwithstanding, Pathan has been in and out of the squad since 2006 and his abilities were closely monitored by the BCCI during those days. You know, during "One bad game and you are a goner" times. Our recent experiment with the rotation policy also saw his credentials up in the air. "You click in the IPL and you are in" was also followed - take the case of Manpreet Gony. Like someone joked. "Who said that selectors need to have vision?"
At the very least, Irfan Pathan can be considered ahead of Jaidev Unadkat as a 'net-bowler' so that he can revive his bowling mojo. Given his match-winning abilities, the Baroda player can still be the perfect answer to Dhoni's ask for a genuine all-rounder.