Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Video Journalist: Gautam Sharma
Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan ended his 16-year-long international career on Saturday, 4 January. Making his debut at nineteen years in Adelaide against the formidable Aussies, the southpaw has seen a roller coaster of a career, which ended prematurely at the age of 27 years, in his own words.
Speaking to The Quint after announcing his retirement, Irfan decided to shed light on one of the most controversial aspects of his international cricketing career. The former Indian all-rounder dismissed all accusations against former India coach Greg Chappell of disrupting a promising career.
"“My relationship Greg Chappell was similar to my relationship with any other youngster in the team at that time, like MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina etc. But lot of people talk that he was the guy who damaged my career but that isn’t true. They are just a cover up.”" - Irfan Pathan
“Greg wanted certain things in a certain way. And things could have been better if things were managed better,” Irfan added.
It was under Greg Chappell’s tutelage Irfan was encouraged to focus on his batting more and was even moved up the batting order. Many believe this is what led to Irfan losing his natural knack for swing, which led to his eventual decline.
After a splendid debut for Team India both with the red and white ball, Irfan was touted to be the next Kapil Dev but unfortunately the young all-rounder never lived upto the expectation.
"“There is only one Kapil Dev and you can’t find any other Kapil Dev. But comparing to him was a big big complement for me but a lot of people hoped that I could have achieved as much as Kapil Paaji has achieved or more.”" - Irfan Pathan
“But everyone has had a certain amount of success and I also had a certain amount of success in cricket,” said Irfan.
Plagued by injuries since the start of his career, Irfan rued the fact that he never had proper guidance for injury management which prevented him from extending his playing days and reaching greater heights.
“Not having any injuries would be the one regret I have but that is not in my control. I did everything from working hard and trying to find solution for whatever injuries I had and why it was happening. I tried my best and I worked hard,” said Irfan.
“At the age of 27 I was able to achieve a feat of 300 international wickets, which not many can achieve and that was end of it. That is the time when fast bowlers peak,” he added.
"“They say that till 30 you can actually peak and you can play till 35. Lot of fast bowlers are still playing but I couldn’t play.”" - Irfan Pathan
Despite being the second Indian to claim a hat-trick in Test cricket and then winning the Man of the Match award in the final of the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa in 2007, Irfan still prefers to choose his debut Test against Australia in Adelaide as his favourite cricket moment in his 16-year-long career.
“I remember very clearly when I got my cap from captain Sourav Ganguly. Three days earlier before the Test match was going to start he said ‘Patsy, you will play! Be ready!” said Irfan.
The amount of belief shown by captain Sourav Ganguly spoke a lot about Irfan’s potential.
"“He (Sourav Ganguly) told me as well that you will be bowling first change but as soon as I entered the ground, he gave me the new ball. He handled me very very nicely. So, I remember it very well.”" - Irfan Pathan
The high point for Irfan in his debut Test was the wicket of the mighty Matthew Hayden and the fact that India went onto win the game.
“And that game against Australia in Adelaide we won after 21 years that was history. So, I think the whole celebrations as well I remember, playing the game, getting Matthew Hayden’s wicket. Ponting’s catch was dropped in my bowling. He went onto score a double hundred, I remember that as well.”
About the hat-trick in Pakistan, Irfan was yet to complete three years in international cricket but he came up with those three magic deliveries in Karachi against Pakistan in January 2006 to become the second Indian to boast of a hat-trick in Test matches.
“When you talk about the hat-trick and they do talk about it. But when I look back the kind of effect it had on fans, I never thought that it would be that kind of effect. People still talk about it in 2020. It is not 2006 or 2007 because the hat-trick was in January 2006,” said Pathan.
"“The guys I took the wickets of, one of them was a Pakistan legend, he became the highest scorer for his country, Younis Khan. Mohammed Yousuf was one of the legends as well.”" - Irfan Pathan
When Irfan was drafted in the Indian side, he was a 19-year-old. It was easy for a youngster to lose his way, especially with the adulation and fan following which Irfan was enjoying. But, he had the right person to guide him with the best advice he ever got.
“Look Rahul (Dravid) Bhai is a great man and the way he has handled Indian cricket when he was playing and now as a coach of junior cricket, India A cricket. I was lucky to be in the same dressing room as him,” said Irfan
“I remember him giving me advice on my very first trip. He had seen me at that time getting a lot of female fan following there in Australia, I remember. He just gave me one advice. I still remember and it is very close to my heart,” he added.
"“He said ‘Whatever you do Irfan never lie to a girl!’ I remember that and it is was very very important advice at the age of 19, Rahul Bhai gave me, Rahul Dravid gave me. That really helped me as well as a person.”" - Irfan Pathan
But it wasn’t only Rahul Dravid, Irfan had a great bond with most of his seniors.
“I think VVS Laxman – he is not only a friend, but he is like an elder brother as well. Harbhajan Singh, I do commentary with him right now, and I really enjoy working with him now. We had a great time during our playing days,” said Pathan.
“There is Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj Singh was one of the nicest seniors in the team when I entered the team. So, I cherish every bit of it of playing with him. Anil (Kumble) Bhai – if I need advice, I go to him still now as well. Luckily, I had a relationship with the legend of the game – Sachin Tendulkar,” Pathan explained.
And guess who was Irfan’s meal partner during his early year in the side?
"“When MS Dhoni was new to the side, before he became the captain, we had a great time as well. I remember we never used to have a meal alone by ourselves.”" - Irfan Pathan . Read more on Cricket by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsChappell Didn’t Spoil My Career, It Was a Cover Up: Irfan Pathan . Read more on Cricket by The Quint.