Every ball is like an over in T20: Irfan Pathan

DD pacer speaks of regrouping, performing and the circle

Delhi 23 April 2013
Only 28-years old, Irfan Pathan has seen his fair share of highs and lows and has come out a stronger and calmer person. The left-arm pacer has had to work out methods of working through set-backs and facing challenges. Although his age might suggest differently, the younger of the Pathan brothers is an experienced campaigner, keen to take responsibilities head on. After a successful 2012, the Delhi Daredevils pacer suffered an injury late last year and was back on the field just a short while before the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013.

Over the years he has learned to adapt to the changes in the game as it evolves and has transformed his game to the need of the hour. His team got off on the wrong foot in the ongoing season before registering a thumping victory against the Mumbai Indians. In a lengthy chat with over a quite cup of tea, Irfan Pathan shared his philosophy that helps him not to be overwhelmed by the highs and lows and about regrouping. 

Excerpts from the interview:

Is more responsibility this year in the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder?

It does bring more responsibility. By saying that, I would like to bat higher up the order to actually show by responsibility and deliver to my capability, because sometimes batting lower down the order there aren’t enough balls left. I feel I can give a lot more to the team than what I am doing because I have the technique to bat higher up the order and actually play the long innings. The absence of Pietersen and Jesse Ryder and obviously Ross Taylor being given away to Pune Warriors India It does bring a lot of responsibility.

Even in bowling, I think I am bowling fine. It is just a matter of taking wickets. The economy rate that I am going at is pretty fine, going by T20 cricket. Overall the responsibility is there and I am enjoying my cricket. Obviously it is hard when you have lost six matches in a row in a tournament which is a high profile one. But you have to find a way to actually perform and make it count for the team.

Although it was a good win against MI, during the six losses there were a few close finishes. What was the one factor according to you why the team was not able to cross the finish line?

We came quite close in some matches but we kept losing early wickets. When you keep losing early wickets it is pretty difficult for batsmen. For any team, any class of batsman when you are four down for 40/30/50 runs; then you can’t accelerate. When you can’t accelerate you are not going to be playing freely, because you are thinking about the team. When you are thinking about the team you feel you should be there till the end. When that happens you are obviously in a negative frame of mind which very rarely you can be avoided.

There are a few teams that hold their wickets and when they hold their wickets you can score at ten runs an over at the later stage. Our last game is a classic example! We didn’t lose a wicket early. We just lost one wicket while chasing 162. And if you see, every over, without even trying much, we were getting ten runs an over. That’s the importance of keeping wickets in hand and at the same time as a bowler it is important to take wickets early on. Those things hadn’t clicked together for us earlier. But hopefully things will work from here on.

How does a team regroup after a string of losses?

For me keeping things simple is very, very important, especially when things are not going your way. Whenever we have team meetings or chats I always try to talk about keeping things simple.

Basically, regrouping is all about making sure that you keep things simple and make sure that you appreciate small little performances even when you lose matches, even when desired result do not come. I know it is a team game, unlike tennis, an individual sport. There are other things that need to work as well in a team environment. So it is even more important to keep things on the right track rather then make it complicated.

What is it like batting in a super over? What was your thought process? What were you told?

Most importantly I wanted to bat in the Super over and that for me was the most important thing. I wanted to go out there. When they were discussing the issue, I asked by signaling ‘am I padding up or not’ because that day I was really hitting the ball well even in the normal game. I got the go to pad up and just be ready. As soon as the wicket fell, I was told to go and I went in there with an open mind. I just wanted to go there and express myself.

What are the challenges and skills required while bowling in the death overs, especially defending a few runs in the last over or super over?

I have done that defending in the last over bit and bowling in death as well. It’s an extra challenge because sometimes bowling the death overs is a thankless job but someone has to do it and I really wish I could do it for the next five years for my team, wherever I am playing. Because that’s the challenge I love to take, that’s what I want to see myself do and I am working on that, That is what my new aim is; to make sure that I am challenged and I take up that challenge.

It’s like, the more I am playing, the more I am understand that it is not just about bowling in just that one area. It is about making sure you are aware of what the batsman is thinking and most importantly giving yourself time in that last over. Just not going out there and run in. I have done that at the start of my career but I have learnt that while bowling in the death, one has more time in terms of being relaxed and does not have to hurry through the over. Thinking is very important. It can calm you down and well make you understand what the batsman is trying to do, what field changes you need to do.

More importantly it is executing your plans. To be able to bowl the best yorker in the world or the best slower ball in the world or a perfect bouncer. Bowling a bouncer is one thing and bowling a perfect bouncer is another thing. So, bowling in those areas and executing your plans is important. Here also it is about keeping things simple. When I want to bowl a yorker I will bowl the best yorker I can, the best slower ball I can and I also know where I am going to bowl. Denying the batsman space to execute his plan is the best I can do as a good death bowler.

Bowling the perfect yorker can’t guarantee you a wicket anymore and a single can result in a win like Dirk Nannes told us. What is your take?

I agree things have changed in cricket. In T20, the ball hardly reverses and in such situations batsmen will take over even off a beautiful Yorker. When that happens more runs are going to come. When runs are coming, bowling a dot ball or keeping the batsman to a single is like you winning. You need to appreciate those small little victories. You need to enjoy that and then you will play better. Giving that single run with that yorker is as good as bowling a maiden in one-day cricket. For me, bowling 24 balls is like bowling 24 overs. For me every ball is one over so you need to make sure you are bowling extra hard for every ball.

What are the advantages of a left-arm pacer and do you find batsmen shuffling to you?

Yes absolutely. The reason that batsman shuffle lot more is that they are not comfortable standing at the crease. That means you are on the right track and when that happens, you need to make sure that you stick to your guns. A left-arm bowler definitely has the edge because he has a different angle. And when there is a different angle it is not easy to bat. I am sure the economy rate of left-arm bowlers must be much lesser than others. Left-arm angle is always going to be difficult, if the bowler hits his marks.

It seems that the bowlers seem to be dominating this season. What is your take?

Yes comparatively. I really think when the pitches are a bit slow the scores are not going to be huge. The more the ball is going to come onto the bat the higher scoring game it will be. Especially in T20 cricket the faster the pitch the high scoring game it is going to be. So I think some of the pitches have been slow and when that happens the bowlers are obviously going to be on top of the game.

Bowlers are taking the edge, they are getting smarter, they are learning and understanding, they are going to gain more experience on what the batsman is trying to do. Bowlers are obviously thinking.

Tell us about the youngsters and newcomers in your team, the likes of Siddharth Kaul, Royston Dias and Kedar Jadhav?

Siddharth Kaul has had a wonderful Ranji Trophy season. He has got a positive attitude for a fast bowler. He is only going to improve if he stays on the right track. Obviously he has a good action, a good repetitive action and when you have that you are obviously going to improve. He just needs to keep that in mind and keep working hard.

Royston Dias is another bowler. Unfortunately I haven’t seen him much in the matches but Siddhartha I have seen him so I can talk about him.
Kedar has got a lazy elegance about his batting. He has got all the shots in the book. A small little guy but he packs a punch. He is a good team mate. He is keeping right now, to ensure that the team’s balance gets better. And it has. I am really happy for him that it is coming out well for him. Good to see him performing the way he is.

What can you tell us about the impact of IPL on the game as you have seen it over the years?

It has done many good things. It has improved as a game. It has helped Indian cricket immensely, brought to light options, in terms of quality players. When you have many options you are bound to do well, more often than not. You will have hiccups in international cricket but if you look at the overall picture you will always have options which is a positive.

When guys perform under pressure at this level they will remember it and when they go on to play international cricket, I am sure they will perform accordingly. Because you have played and performed against international stars and overseas players, your confidence is high and that certainly helps.

And lot of other small things; like a lot of youngsters have got the opportunity to bring security into their families. You are earning by doing the right things, working hard. Honest money. I have seen how happy youngsters get when they get a contract and how their life changes in a positive way. That is a very good thing that IPL has done for youngsters. Their parents have worked really hard for them and they deserve a better life in their older life too.

IPL teams like Daredevils are doing social awareness and responsibility projects. Like collaborating with UNICEF and getting involved in campaigns like Dare to Care to support girl child and I am sure lot of other franchises are doing something or other like that.

You were in peak form when you had the injury; going through recovery how did you motivate yourself?

When you have a three-month break from cricket with or without injury it takes time to regroup, again in terms of getting your rhythm back and everyone is aware of that. Especially for a bowler if you are out for a month or two, it takes time and I was out for three months and before that I was playing really well. Swinging the ball and batting really well. But I have been there and done that before so I know that it takes time. You have to make sure you stay patient with yourself. I too have that urge go out there and start performing from the first match, doing everything right from the first game but being experienced I understand that it takes time. What I tell myself is to be patient. Patience is very, very important. I do a few things personally to maintain my patience levels because it is not easy. Saying and doing are two different things. How do I do it? I learn from my experiences first of all.

I am close to my family. When I realise I am under pressure or when I am worried about those people in my family, it makes me realise life is much more than just playing cricket. That’s what I feel and when you think like that, a little pressure comes down. By that I am not saying that cricket is any less important.

The Circle

For me cricket is everything. For me my love, passion and habit is my game and when things don’t work out it frustrates me as well. But I have created a circle for myself. It is an imaginary circle where I try and stay in the centre. I am happy especially with the cricketing performances and I get very happy when something good happens in my family (in the center of the circle) and when something bad happens to my family I go out of the circle. But when it comes to cricket I don’t go out of the circle.

When something good happens I will go a little above the centre but will not go out of the circle. When things are not looking too good, I will go a little below the centre but not go out of the circle. When you try consistently and consciously to stay in the circle, things are not going to bother you much. I thank God whenever something good happens and even when things don’t go my way.

Staying clam comes with experience. You learn with time. When you go through so many things – highs and lows through your career, it makes you stronger. I learn from a lot of amazing people that I meet by just observing them. 
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