Irfan deserves Test recall

Irfan Pathan bowled with heart in Sri Lanka.-AP

The allrounder will be hoping to strengthen his case for the Test matches as well. But with India scheduled to play only at home in the next 15 months, he may not get his opportunities.

The high rate of success that bowlers with the ability to bowl outswingers have achieved over decades has made promising young fast bowlers work towards developing a prodigious outswing. Kapil Dev, the legendary Indian allrounder, had this ability to make a cricket ball swing appreciably, but what made him unique was that there was very little that did not come naturally to him on a cricket field. However, despite his enormous inherent talent, he lost his stock in trade for a while in 1990 which rendered him ineffective in England. But the gifted allrounder sorted out the problem within a short span of time to pick up 25 wickets in Australia, a year later. During this phase, Kapil Dev did something which was remarkable — he went back to getting his basics right, without getting clouded by the fact that he had already carved a niche for himself in international cricket. Since outswing was hugely responsible for his success, it did not come as a surprise when he advocated young bowlers to work on developing outswingers.

But developing the art of bowling outswing was never an easy task. It required all the principles of bowling (run up, acceleration, alignment, balanced delivery stride, release and follow through) to be spot on. Even if one of the elements were to go awry the results could be zilch. Besides, there have been phases in the careers of some bowlers where the ball just went straight on, like an arrow. It is during these phases that bowlers are faced with their biggest challenges. In some cases the loss of swing is brought about by the quest to make the ball do more than is required to get the edge of the bat. The cases of L. Balaji and Irfan Pathan are prominent examples. In their quest to get the banana-swing, they ended up ignoring the basic principles and the consequences were disastrous. While Balaji suffered a major back injury six years ago (a natural phenomenon when a fast bowler develops a faulty technique), Irfan faded into oblivion.

It has taken both of them some trying and frustrating seasons in the domestic circuit to get back on track and it was nice to see Pathan swing the ball back into the right-handers in Sri Lanka. He might have had lost a bit in terms of pace but he will feel a lot better now that the ball is wobbling more than it did a couple of seasons ago. With the search for an allrounder still in place, Pathan looks the most likely candidate to fit that role at least in the shorter formats of the game. He will be hoping to strengthen his case for the Test matches as well. But with India scheduled to play only at home in the next 15 months, he may not get his opportunities. His omission for the Test series against New Zealand is an indication of things to come. Furthermore, it also suggests that the team management is still not convinced about his efficacy in the longer format. In addition, Team India is still wary about playing five bowlers, with a batsman short. This will stunt the chances of Pathan to reaffirm his credentials as a genuine allrounder. It is an irony that even as the search for an allrounder is on, a potential candidate is not given the right opportunities to blossom.