At 35, when some of his contemporaries are still busy playing the game, speedster Irfan Pathan announced his retirement from all forms of cricket at the Star Sports studio, on Saturday after 15 years of service.
One of India’s most prominent swing bowler, Pathan, however, may remain available for franchise-based leagues overseas.
The pace ace indicated that the thought of hanging up the boots crossed his mind after a word with the national selectors a few years ago. "In 2016, I had a good outing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. I spoke to the selectors after that and got a feeling that they were not too happy. I knew that was it. There was no way I could return to the national team..."
However, Pathan featured in the Ranji Trophy – where he first played for his home side Baroda – until last season as player-cum-mentor for Jammu and Kashmir.
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“In domestic cricket, too, I have been part of Jammu and Kashmir cricket and after last season, I thought what’s the motivation to play any more?” Pathan said.
Even after retirement, he will continue to be associated with Jammu and Kashmir as a mentor. “I will keep contributing to Indian cricket, but it is always better if someone else takes my place in domestic cricket. There are lot of other things in store for me and I will keep focusing on them,” Pathan said about his future plans.
One of India’s front-line fast-bowling all-rounders, Pathan featured in 29 Tests, 120 One-Day Internationals and 24 Twenty20 Internationals for India. He last donned India colours in 2012, but indifferent form and injury issues forced him out of national reckoning thereafter.
But fans of Indian cricket will always remember Pathan’s heroics during India’s tours of Australia and Pakistan in 2004, where he impressed the likes of Wasim Akram. In his debut series, the left-arm seamer not only emerged as the highest wicket-taker against Australia and Zimbabwe in the ODIs, but also scalped the wickets of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.
“Every time I visited Pakistan, I have returned with good memories. I first played there during the under-19 days and took nine wickets against Bangladesh — including a hat-trick — in an Asian under-19 tournament. Later, playing for the senior team, I performed really well,” Pathan said.
His hat-trick in the first over of the Karachi Test of 2006 established him as one of the leading swing bowlers of his time. He was also part of the Indian team that won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007.
“It has been a great journey. I played cricket with all my heart and soul. I am really proud of it and when I look back, I feel happy with my achievements. It’s been a great career,” the pacer said.
Pathan will always be remembered as the boy from Baroda who faced the odds to carve out a place for himself in international cricket. Coming from a family that had no connection to cricket – his father was a muezzin in Baroda – the Pathan brothers, Yusuf and Irfan, both made it to the Indian team and stamped their class and left a legacy not many can match.