Pathan seizes second chance with gusto

Pathan seizes second chance with gusto

All-rounder makes promising return

It was in Australia that Irfan Pathan announced his arrival more than eight years ago, yorking Adam Gilchrist. Now, another trip  Down Under might just have given his career a much-needed fillip.

Pathan has given enough signals of getting back to his best during his three matches in the tri-series, capturing six wickets at an impressive strike-rate of 25.50. Pathan hasn’t bamboozled batsmen with some magic outings, but spells have contained small clues that indicate that the Baroda man could renew his ties with the Indian team on a long-term basis.

The zip off the pitch, an indivisible part of his arsenal, was on view on more than one occasion, and the dismissal of Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratne Dilshan will stand as testimony to that. The ball hurried off the surface and swung back into the batsman, and the former Lankan skipper could manage only a thick edge while attempting a cut.

It was also evidence of the return of Pathan’s ability to bring the ball back into the right-hander, a gift that had deserted him for a while. There was a time when his pace had dropped to the early 120 kmph, making him easy prey for batsmen. But in this series, he has added a couple of yards of pace, helping him hold his own on Australian pitches.

Bowling in the mid and late 130 kmph might not be a big threat for batsmen at the international level, but that pace becomes lethal when it makes an alliance with Pathan’s skills in procuring swing in almost all conditions. There was also a time when his sense of aim had deserted him, spraying the ball all around.

But he has shown welcome signs of getting his radar back in focus, as the inswinging yorker that crashed through the defence of Dinesh Chandimal would explain.

He had gone through a tough period before reaching where he’s at the moment. There was an eight-month lay-off due to a back injury that forced him to sit out of the 2010-11 domestic season, and he spent more time at the National Cricket Academy than at his home during that phase.

“It was really painful days. The recovery process was slow. It took eight months, and trust me, it’s tough to go through such periods of intense rehabilitation.

“Then, there were discomforting thoughts about my career, as I wasn’t aware of the direction I was heading. But among all this, I haven’t lost one thing – my belief -- and it drove me forward,” Pathan had said at the time of his recall.

That belief and hard work yielded results in the 2011-12 domestic season. After four rounds of Ranji Trophy matches, Pathan was among the highest wicket-takers in the country with 21 wickets at a shade over 14 including three five-wicket hauls.

Those outings helped him leap back into the visibility range of the selectors, and reward came in the shape of a place in the squad for the five-match home ODI series against the West Indies late last year. He played just one match, in Chennai, but so encouraging were the results that the selectors included him in the ODI team for the triangular series.
While notching up a quick 47 in a losing cause against Sri Lanka in Brisbane on Tuesday, the younger Pathan reminded everyone of his prowess with the bat as well. It’s up to the team management to take the cue and promote him up the order, in his case to the number seven slot.

Now, Ravindra Jadeja occupies that position and he has not done much to merit a permanent place in the playing eleven. The perimeter of the Australian boundaries seem to be a bit too long for Jadeja to clear them consistently, a task Pathan, who merges power and timing quite beautifully, can do easily. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has shown that Jadeja’s left-arm spin is not exactly an unavoidable part by not using him against Australia at the Gabba.

At 27, Pathan still has a good number of years left in him as a cricketer. He showed great courage while returning from oblivion. Hopefully, the think-tank will use him effectively.