The Sher-i-Kashmir International Stadium in Srinagar was bustling with energy on Friday afternoon. Local cricketers — aspirants from the U-16 and U-19 levels, and some from the Jammu and Kashmir State (J&K) outfit — had come to meet Irfan Pathan, who took charge as the team’s mentor-cum-player for the forthcoming season.
As reported first by Sportstar in January, the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) has finally sealed the deal with Irfan. Former India captain Kapil Dev will also visit the State time and again to help out the cricketers.
Irfan, on the other hand, will be mainly working with the State’s Ranji Trophy side, but the all-rounder insists he will travel to the districts to scout young talents. “It was a great experience meeting the young players. They are excited about their game, and I sincerely hope to make a difference in the cricketing scene in Jammu and Kashmir,” Irfan told Sportstar from the valley.
JKCA CEO Ashiq Ali Bukhari, too, confirmed the development. “We have been talking with them for a while now, and we are glad to finally have them on board,” Bukhari said.
While Irfan will be officially unveiled as J&K’s mentor-cum-player on Tuesday, the India all-rounder is excited about the new role. “I had other lucrative offers, but I chose Jammu and Kashmir. I hope to make it count and do something for the game here. I will interact with youngsters and try to bring out more talents,” Irfan, who parted ways with Baroda, said.
‘Different yardstick for different players’
But why did he decide to leave Baroda? “As an organisation, Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) has given me everything. Irfan became Irfan because of the association, but things were going out hand. There were different yardstick for different players,” he said.
“I didn’t want to play just as a cricketer, and wanted to play the mentor role, too, but I was restricted. It’s better to leave without any animosity,” Irfan, who last played for India in 2012, added.
In his new job, he is looking forward to working with Kapil. “It will be a pleasure working with paaji . I met him a couple of months ago and he advised me to take up this job. I am glad I took it,” Irfan said.
The JKCA plans to start preparations for the Ranji Trophy by June, and in a new stint, Irfan hopes to make his presence felt.
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