Irfan Pathan: The story of a successful failure from a Vadodara boy’s eyes

In the 1980s when Kapil Dev was asked by a journalist that ‘why India can’t produce another Kapil?’ The all-rounder had famously replied, “My mother is very old and father is no longer alive!”

On a serious note, India came close producing another. He was touted as the next Kapil. And no, I am not talking of Stuart Binny. I am talking about a cute looking curly haired swing bowler. The bowler whom even the great Wasim Akram rated highly. Irfan Pathan came from a very modest background. His father sold perfumes outside a little mosque in Mandvi area of Vadodara.

I remember, as a child of seven that my dad used to tell me about the two incredibly talented sons of Mehmood Khan Pathan. And when the younger brother took the world by storm in Under-19 World Cup in 2002, and Mr Mehmood’s little household became the talking point of the city.

Expectations and dreams were getting ready to be unleashed. A bright future lay ahead for a household, whose worry till then was how to make two ends meet. An India call up wasn’t too late. Irfan travelled to Australia and impressed one and all with his swing and young girls had found a new heartthrob! A few years later when Irfan picked up the hat-trick in the very first over of a Test innings against Pakistan, the city of Vadodara celebrated Diwali and Eid on the same day.

For a youngster like me playing club cricket in Vadodara, Irfan was our hero and he gave little starry-eyed kids like us a hope, a dream to make it large. The Greg Chappell era soon dawned upon the national side and India lost both, Irfan and the captain Sourav Ganguly. Quite ironical, Ganguly was the one who brought Irfan to the television screens and also insisted on Chappell being the coach.

From there on, Irfan’s journey has been a bumpy ride, much like a village highway in remote part of India, marked with highs of the World T20 win in 2007, where he received the Man of the Match in the final, and lows of the injury issues that curtailed his comebacks.

On Saturday, now the out of contention, 31-year-old Irfan produced a glimpse of his younger self. He picked up a fifer against Assam in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament. This prompted renowned politician Shashi Tharoor to tweet: “Irfan Pathan scalps 5 wkts of top six bats. Send him to Australia asap!”

Here’s a glimpse that Irfan shared on social media:

Not a bad bad delivery ;). #teambaroda

Posted by Irfan Pathan on Monday, 4 January 2016


Irfan and Yusuf came up through a lot of struggle. They shared a kit pack and a cycle and determinedly worked their way up to Indian cricket. But like many stories in Indian cricket, their success was short lasting. Currently, both the brothers are out of favour and with age not on their side, it will be highly unlikely that they make a comeback.

Their remarkable story and journey will continue inspiring youngsters in Vadodara but had they been managed better it would have only served Indian cricket well. In Yusuf, the world stage lost a brilliant limited-overs player and in Irfan they lost the next possible Kapil.

There have been many such successful failures in Indian cricket in search of that fast bowling all rounder. After Stuart Binny, it’s now time for Rishi Dhawan and Hardik Pandya. When will get our Kapil back? Will a youngster fill in successfully or it will be the 31-year-old Irfan who will make a comeback like his once bowling partner, the 36-year-old Ashish Nehra. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile the search for next Kapil Dev continues…

[Devashish Palkar, an MBBS student, A sports afficionado, news addict and a patient of OCSD ( Obsessive Compulsive Satirical Disorder)].