Mumbai: Ignored for Test cricket for nearly five years, Indian allrounder Irfan Pathan has vowed to make a comeback in the highest form of the game sooner or later. "Not playing Test cricket for so many years is a different thing, but now I know I can play Test cricket again. I have made a promise to myself and I will fulfil that dream," Pathan said at the Cricket Club of India.
The 28-year-old, who raised visions of Kapil Dev earlier in his stop-start international career before injuries and poor form took their toll, said he proved his critics wrong in the past after being dropped from the ODI team. "Three years ago a lot of people said I am not going to play international cricket ever again. But I knew I am going to play it again. I started playing first class cricket and made my comeback in Australia (in T20s and ODIs on 2011-12 tour) even though everyone had written me off," said Pathan. "I am working towards my goal and I am pretty sure it's going to happen sooner or later. Only one man can stop me from playing Test cricket - obviously there's selection but that's a different thing - and that's me if I don't work towards my goal," he said confidently.
The left-arm swing bowler, who has not played any competitive cricket since hurting his left knee during the Ranji Trophy game against Karnataka in early November, said he has fully recovered and was all set to return to action during the Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament. "I am fit now and available to play any level of cricket. I will play Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Baroda. Luckily it was not my front foot (landing) that was injured following the impact after my fall. It's all clear now and my bowling is back to normal," he said. "When I was injured I was pretty close to playing Test cricket. I was feeling like I was knocking the door because I was there in the India A practice game against England. I was feeling really good and was doing well in one-day cricket."
Saying he was still to fathom the reason for being dropped from Tests following India's debacle in the Ahmedabad game in 2008 against South Africa, Pathan insisted he was not looking back but only focusing ahead. "When I was dropped, I had been declared the Man of the Match in my third to last Test (at Perth). I am still searching for the reason why I did not play (later). There could be many reasons, but I like to see forward. The way things are going and I am bowling, I am pretty satisfied," he said.
The bowling allrounder, who has taken 100 wickets in 29 Tests and scored over 1100 runs at just over 31 per innings, still saw himself as a bowler who could also bat. "I am still in the same category, as a bowler who can bat. My forte is swing. I'm batting well. When I made my comeback I had a few contributions through match winning partnerships with (Suresh) Raina and with (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni. Luckily my bowling is going well. I am feeling very confident as a batsman as well as a bowler," he said.
However, he dismissed the notion that he was someone capable of bowling at over 140kmph on a consistent basis. "I never bowl consistently at 140. I don't know where this whole perception of me bowling at 140 consistently started. I was never a bowler like that, never a quick bowler. I bowl consistently at 135 and in between my pace comes down to 130 and sometimes to 127. There have been times when we go to Australia or where quick pitches are there when you bowl one ball at 140 or try to consistently bowl 135-plus.
"If you look at the fast bowlers who have come from Australia, they bowl consistently at 150 in Australia and are hardly touching 140 now. My speed went down in between, yes. But it was to do with the injury and the action. I am happy with my speed right now - between 130 and 135 - and if I could swing the ball late like I am swinging right now. If you ask any cricketer who has played good cricket he will tell you this is the perfect speed for a swing bowler. If I can actually swing the ball if I bowl 130-135, it's more than enough."
Pathan wants to take more responsibility as a cricketer in all levels of the game, in batting as well as bowling. "What I am aiming for is to take more responsibility whether I am playing for the country or playing domestic cricket, or anywhere else. I want to take responsibility - with new ball, old ball or bowling in the death. I don't mind bowling all the overs in power play and that's what I have started working on. I just want to go out and perform very well. I never indulge in unnecessary talk. I am a big believer ...if you can't do it, don't talk. Because I know I can do it and that's why I am talking. I will fulfil this short term goal I have to become a responsible bowler under any captain - Indian captain, domestic or IPL. That's what I am working on and I am going to achieve it. It may take one or two months but I am going to achieve it, for sure."
Asked whether he was targeting the Champions Trophy starting in June in England, Pathan said "absolutely". "That's the goal, but I am going to start it with domestic cricket for Baroda. It has to start somewhere. It's going to be a long season and it's going to be a good and strong season for me. Good performances would come out from my side."
He also declared his intention to bat at any slot the team wanted him to when queried whether he was ready to open in the shorter forms of the game as he had done in the past. "I will bat anywhere, it's the team's call and whatever the captain demands of me. I have done that (open) before because whatever captain I had played under they know I will never say no to anything, whether under Rahul Dravid's captaincy or under Dhoni when I played in Sri Lanka (in last year's T20 World Championship).
"When you are batting at number 7 or 8, the team expects you to perform with the bat as well. I have been working on a lot of things over the last two years. It showed in my performances in Sri Lanka and in Australia when I batted in the power plays. Even in bowling where my forte is swing, I never shy away from bowling with the old ball or bowling at the death."