Irfan Pathan‘s comeback to Ranji Trophy after suffering a rib injury raised many eyebrows not because he failed to deliver or because he managed to make it faster than everyone thought he would but because he has not bowled in any of the two matches he represented Baroda in.
His returns with the bat were not satisfying either with scores of 22, 37 and a golden-duck in three innings against Services and Saurashtra respectively. With a berth in quarter-finals not assured, can Baroda afford to carry a less contributing player is the question that is on everyone’s minds.
It also raises the question if the selectors have specifically asked Baroda to play the left-arm medium pace bowler as without doubt, a completely fit Irfan would be a boon to the Indian team with the World Cup 2015 scheduled in Oceania.
However, Baroda have managed to emerge triumphant in both those fixtures to ensure Pathan's inclusion is not made a big issue. They need to win their next match, which also happens to be their last, to entertain any hopes of playing in the knock-out rounds.
Speaking to Cricinfo, here is what Irfan Pathan had to say: “I have started bowling in the nets, but not with full intensity. I am on a quarter to half run-up now. But I need to keep bowling in the half run-up for a few sessions now. Once I get to a full run-up, I will start bowling in the games."
“The preparation has been less but, the good thing is that I’ve started playing. I’m happy to be part of the team that won two games outright. Overall it helps your morale as well.”
“I am out of the team because of my injuries, not because of my performances. I got a five-for in Sri Lanka [before the World T20] as well. I just want to bowl the way I did last year. My aim is to stay fit and keep taking wickets in domestic cricket. Once I do that, I’m pretty sure I will be where I belong.”
Admitting that the recovery period took its toll on him, he added: “It’s a test of character and patience as well. It has tested my patience several times. When you’re in the rehab center, working out for only one hour, you end up spending a lot of time with yourself, watching the game, sometimes doing nothing."
“It can be very frustrating when you’re forcefully kept out of the game. But, I’m a Pathan and Pathans are fighters. I just need to get fit. Other things will take care of themselves. I expect to get better match by match.”
On being shuffled around as a batsman, he said: “It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I learn from experience. Even when I got out yesterday [first ball] the first thing I did was to go to the nets. When these things happen at the start of the season, you don’t relax. You work on it.”
“I think I’m good at handling the short ball so I can bat up the order as well. I only need to work on playing the bigger shots, and I have worked on my wrist position as well when it comes to my batting. I am always ready to bat at any position, you can ask my captains."
“Once I manage to stay fit, my performance is going to be double, be it runs or wickets.”