Irfan Pathan © Getty Images
Irfan Pathan © Getty Images

Irfan Pathan, born October 27, 1984, is one of the few pace-bowling all-rounders who succeeded — albeit briefly — at the highest level for India. Sadly for him and for India, he went from being the obvious successor to Kapil Dev’s legacy to being someone on the fringes of international cricket. An inexplicable loss of form and frequent injury troubles meant that Irfan’s career never took off after his astronomical early success. On his birthday, Shiamak Unwalla looks at 10 interesting things to know about the all-rounder whose full potential is yet to come through.

1. All in the family

Irfan and his elder half-brother Yusuf were brought up near a mosque in Vadodara. The family was not very well-off, but they were extremely close to each other. Irfan said in an interview with CricketCountry, “Our father would say that he is very lucky. But, we say that we are very fortunate that we had such parents. We never complained. Whatever state we were in, our father never denied us anything. We were quite content. But, our father was a step ahead and would provide us everything.”

2. World Cup family

When both brothers were selected for ICC World T20 2007, it was a proud moment for the Pathan family. Irfan played every game in the tournament but Yusuf was out of the side for most of the matches. However, in the most crucial game of the tournament — the final — Virender Sehwag was injured and Yusuf was asked to open batting.

Irfan told CricketCountry in an interview, “When he (Yusuf) played the final, that was the moment for me. Our dream was coming through. Then, the icing on the cake was to win the World Cup. There is a picture where I was on his back and he was carrying me around. That was like we were playing in the backyard again, but on a bigger stage and in a bigger backyard. It was something really special and that day was a dream come true.”

3. Man of the Final

While it was a proud moment for the Pathan family that both brothers were playing a final, the icing on the cake was that Irfan’s spell of 4-0-16-3 earned him Man of the Match in the final. His wickets included skipper Shoaib Malik for 8, Shahid Afridi first ball, and Yasir Arafat for 15.

4. Match-winning stand with Yusuf

The brothers continued to star for India on the tour of Sri Lanka in 2008-09. In the one-off T20I at Colombo, Sri Lanka made 171 for 4 — a considerable T20I score in those days. India’s chase got off to a poor note, with both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir getting out with just 14 on the board. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina kept the hopes alive with 30s, but at 115 for 7 in the 16th over, India were heading for defeat.

That was when Yusuf was joined by Irfan, with 57 to win from 29 balls. The brothers proceeded to hit four sixes between them, taking on the Sri Lankan bowling with ease. They put on 59 with Yusuf making 22 off 10 balls, and Irfan scoring 33 off 16 deliveries as India won with four balls to spare.

5. Hat-trick hero

Irfan was under a lot of pressure ahead of the Pakistan tour of 2005-06. Two high-scoring draws at Lahore and Faisalabad meant that no one had taken a lot of wickets. However, the third match at Karachi was played on a vastly different surface. Irfan found something in the pitch for him early on, and ended up taking a hat-trick in the very first over of the match. He had Salman Butt caught by Rahul Dravid at first slip off the fourth ball of the match and followed it up by getting Younis Khan out LBW and Mohammad Yousuf out bowled.

India had Pakistan on the mat at 39 for 6 before Kamran Akmal played one of the finest innings of his career to score 113 off 148 balls. Mohammad Asif, Shoaib Akhtar, and Abdul Razzaq then ripped through India before Pakistan’s batsman amassed 599 for 7 in the second innings. Yuvraj Singh’s valiant century went in vain as India lost by a massive 341 runs.

6. The batsman

Irfan’s bowling was excellent when he was on song, but he brought a lot to the table with his batting as well. The comparisons with Kapil Dev were not altogether questionable at one point. Kapil’s batting average of 31.05 in Tests and 23.79 in ODIs was almost identical to Irfan’s 31.57 in Tests and 23.39 in ODIs. Of course, Irfan’s career is far from over so the numbers could change.

Irfan has proven himself more than capable with the bat on numerous occasions. Perhaps the first glimpse India had of his ability with the bat came against Sri Lanka in Nagpur in 2005. Sent in at No. 3 as a pinch hitter, Irfan blasted 83 off 70 balls with eight fours and four sixes as India won by a big margin. He has five ODI fifties (at the time of writing) in countries ranging from India to Pakistan to Malaysia to Zimbabwe. He also has five more 40-plus scores, two of which came in South Africa and Australia.

Irfan has opened batting in Tests with considerable success as well. He scored 93 against Sri Lanka in Delhi in 2005, and also braved the likes of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait while scoring 46 batting at No. 3 at Perth in 2008. Irfan’s lone Test hundred came at Bangalore against Pakistan in 2007.

7. Perth heroics

One of Irfan’s finest all-round performances came in India’s iconic victory at Perth in 2008. He scored 28 in India’s first innings total of 330 and then took out debutant Chris Rogers and Phil Jacques before being promoted to No. 3 in the second innings and scoring 46 against Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait, and Stuart Clark. Irfan then took three more wickets in the second innings as India won by 72 runs.

8. IPL traveller

Irfan has played for as many as four IPL teams: Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Delhi Daredevils (DD), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS).

9. Cricket Academy of Pathans (CAP)

The Pathan brothers launched Cricket Academy of Pathans (CAP) in 2014. The academy is meant to help budding cricketers and give back to the game. The academy will have the essential amenities that help in building cricketing careers, such as a psychologist, a nutritionist and more.

10. A simple philosophy

In an interview with CricketCountry, Irfan explained his philosophy in life. “I believe in hard work but also enjoying the small pleasures of your life — which is important but we forget from time to time. We need someone to remind ourselves and for that, I have my family. They keep reminding me that life is good.”