Irfan Pathan: 'I want to enjoy my cricket'

Irfan Pathan has learnt to smile through disappointments of form, fitness and whims of the selectors. And he is at peace with himself. Speaking to Sportstar, he said, "I am at that stage of my journey when I want to enjoy my cricket."

Irfan Pathan: 'The game taught me to take different emotions in my stride. One has to stay grounded.'   -  S. Dinakar

Despite swings in fortunes, Irfan Pathan continues to be cheerful.

He has learnt to smile through disappointments of form, fitness and whims of the selectors. And he is at peace with himself.

“I am at that stage of my journey when I want to enjoy my cricket. I want to give more to the game, pass on my knowledge to the younger bunch,” said Irfan, speaking to Sportstar here on Sunday.

He added, “I want to play with the sort of freedom that only comes when you don’t put pressure on yourself.”

Optimistic

This doesn’t mean Irfan has lost ambition. In fact, he is working hard on his body, has kept that fire burning. Although disappointed about missing the Ranji match here owing to a viral fever, the Baroda cricketer looks at his future with optimism.

“Previously I used to do weights. Now I am into hard running. I run two kilometres at a stretch and time those runs. I feel much lighter, and I feel good about myself,” said the former India all-rounder.

Irfan is also honing his technique. And he is being guided by pace bowling coach T. A. Sekar. “I am in regular touch with Sekar sir. We have been working on loading up the ball close to the body. This way I will be able to swing the ball more from a smoother release.”

Actually, Irfan was the closest India got to producing a genuine pace bowling all-rounder in the last 15 years. A left-arm paceman of swing and incision apart from being a southpaw with strokes, Irfan was afflicted by injuries after a roaring start to his career.

Irfan could barely conceal a sense of hurt when he said, “Injuries happen, particularly when you are a paceman. But you need to be looked after well and with sensitiveness. You should not be written off. Look at Australia. Their pacemen keep getting injured but they keep coming back.”

The 32-year-old Irfan certainly had his moments, with over 1000 runs and 100 wickets in both Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) apart from having played a major role in India’s maiden ICC World Twenty20 triumph, in South Africa. But then, it could have been a lot more.

Along the way, he has learnt much about cricket and life. “Cricket has taught me so many things. I travelled around the world, saw different cultures and learnt to speak English which enabled me to communicate better. Above all, the game taught me to take different emotions in my stride. One has to stay grounded.”

Married to Safa Baig in February this year, Irfan is a happy man. “It’s a wonderful feeling. Her family is from Hyderabad but settled in Saudi.”

He has not given up on his India dream yet. “Age is only a number,” says Irfan.