Asia Cup: Pathan picks Rohit, Bhuvi as trump cards

India all-rounder Irfan Pathan, whose  report card against Pakistan is filled with A grades, shares his thoughts on Wednesday’s marquee clash.

Irfan Pathan believes Rohit Sharma will have a key role to play against Pakistan.   -  V.V.S. Subrahmanyam

All format away series victories in 2004, a Test hat-trick in 2006, followed by a Test hundred at home in 2007 — all against Pakistan — are dream figures for an Indian cricketer. When Irfan Pathan reigned supreme in the blue jersey, he always tried for a good start; even as a batsman at No 3 later in his career. Ahead of the Indo-Pak Asia Cup encounter in Dubai on Wednesday, we rang up Pathan for a conversation.

Excerpts…

You have had a phenomenal run against Pakistan. How did you tackle the pressure?

People say you have to treat it as any other game. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the challenge of being under pressure. For me, the more the pressure, the more the enjoyment. If you shine in a big game, you come out as a better player. It is all in your mind if you want to take it up as a challenge.

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There is also a lot of hype that gets created…

Exactly, and which may force you to think that you need to be at your best. This, after all, is the father of all battles. So you take it head on and don’t run away from it.

What are your favourite memories from all your achievements against Pakistan?

All of them. Except for the 2006 Test series which we lost  1-0, we won almost everything in that period from 2004. We won the one-dayers twice in Pakistan. In the hat-trick series, I was also batting well. I scored 90 in the Faisalabad Test, where I had a solid partnership with Mahendra Singh Dhoni (who scored 148). I would like to thank my well-wishers for keeping these memories alive.

Coming back to Asia Cup, who would you pick as India’s trump cards against Pakistan and overall?

Rohit Sharma will be the key. He is a kind of a batsman who can play a long innings, and he is also leading the side. I am also looking forward to watching Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is making a comeback [after nursing an injury]. In this scenario, Bhuvi, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are my favourite bowlers. They are special bowlers as they will be effective in all conditions. Among bowlers, Bhuvi will be the key with the new ball.

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There are many youngsters in the Indian side. They will play Pakistan for the first time, any thought on that?

Whether it is youngsters or seniors, whoever is playing, it is always exciting to play against Pakistan. I have even played them in my U-19 days. It will be the same thing. Whenever there is an India-Pakistan game, you obviously want to be a part of that moment. Seniors or juniors, it doesn’t matter.