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A renewed Irfan Pathan will take the field in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League, this time for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The all-rounder, who has had quite a few trysts with injuries over the years, has once again worked his way back to competitive cricket after another layoff late in 2013. Now, the left-arm pacer is looking forward to bowling in tandem with Dale Steyn for the Shikhar Dhawan-led side.
While speaking to iplt20.com ahead of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014, Irfan spoke about comebacks, his new captain and sharing the stage with the likes of Darren Sammy and Steyn.
Excerpts from his interview:
You will be donning a different jersey this time around. How does it feel?
I am looking forward to it. It is going to be very exciting. The team has done well last year and there is some exciting talent there in the team as well. There are a couple of people in the team who I know very well. It’s going to be great. I have heard they are a good franchise, and the setup there is also good.
Will you be looking forward to bowling with Dale Steyn?
That’s going to be exciting, because at the moment, he is one fast bowler doing well in all formats of the game. With the amount of effort that he gives in, there is obviously something that we all can learn from it. He is always running in hard and is always prepared. It is going to be a great experience sharing the new ball with him and sharing the ball whatever the situation is. He is the key when it comes to death bowling.
What do you expect to pick from coach Tom Moody?
I have worked with him before in Kings XI Punjab. He is knowledgeable and hard working. I am looking forward to working with him again.
You will be sharing the space with Darren Sammy, another big-hitting all-rounder.
It will be great working with him. The way he is hitting the ball, there is going to be something exciting as well. There is something very special given the way he is hitting at more than 200 percent strike rate (in the ICC WT20) right now. As a team, you can’t expect much more than that. He comes from the Caribbean, and the cricketers from there are very exciting and talented. And he is the vice-captain here, so I am looking forward to the fun and exciting times ahead.
How do you see Shikhar Dhawan as a captain? And how has he evolved over the years?
I haven’t played under him so far. He had a really great last year, and that confidence will take him a long way in terms of playing. The confidence will help.
He has evolved big time. When I played against him in 2011 and then again the next year, he was a completely different player in the way he was hitting the ball. One thing that stood out was that he was always confident. But later, he was also very clear in terms of his thought process. The way he was playing, he was very clear in that. So that actually was big advantage for him; that’s how he has evolved, I think. He is clear in his shots, clear in terms of what to do, what not to do, and is getting to know his strength. So I think knowing that has helped him in becoming a better player than what he was.
Since your comeback, you have been creating breakthroughs with the new ball in the past few games. How have you worked to be so impactful?
It is never easy when you comeback from a break, but God has been kind. Things have been working out with the work I put in with my experience and with the way things have been since I am fit now. Things have picked up and the amount of hard work that I have put in is a lot as well. I am trying to make sure that I work and concentrate on my good areas. I am making sure that I keep the basics right, like the position and the basic action. I am keeping it very simple and keeping with my basics right. Those things are helping me. I am actually trying to make sure that I make good use of the new ball; that’s very important.
What are the challenges you faced while making yet another comeback?
First of all, you need to be mentally strong when you come back from a break. Because sometimes you think about how you have to do everything again. You have through go through the process all over again. The process of coming back is very difficult. You have to put in the hard yards and you have to make sure you work from zero. After a five-month layoff due to injury, the first few sessions of bowling are hard work and you don’t know what you are doing; you have to go through that process again. Mostly what takes the toll is the mental side of it. But God has been kind and I have a good family. So that helps.
Did you have to make any changes or adjustments to your bowling style?
Obviously, I had to make a few changes in my action. There are a few adjustments that I made. Trying to make sure that I don’t throw much in terms of delivery stride. And that is actually making me bowl very efficiently with less amount of effort.
My loading, which is from the back of my head, I am trying to get it in front. When you do that, it does help because then things become very simple – you are mainly focused towards the target rather than going through side-on, and you avoid putting a load on your body as well. It makes things biomechanically simpler.
When he turns out for the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2014, Dhawal Kulkarni will be aiming for the India cap which has so far proven to be elusive for the pacer. The young pacer was recruited by the franchise, which is known to have given quite a few players a stage to perform and get noticed.
Kulkarni was part of the Indian team that toured New Zealand in 2008-09, but returned without getting a single match. And then, he even had to sit out the home series against West Indies in November 2013 as he sustained an injury on the day he was picked in the squad.
Now, after a layoff, he has come back hard and has been making an impact in the domestic circuit. The young pacer from the stables of Mumbai has continuously honed his skills and learnt from seniors. While speaking to iplt20.com, he discussed the valuable inputs he got from ace India pacer Zaheer Khan and former India captain Sachin Tendulkar. “The help that I got from Sachin last year was amazing. That was the best thing that I could have ever got,” he said.
Armed with all the inputs, Kulkarni is now looking forward to impress during the upcoming IPL season.
Excerpts from his interview:
You have made an impactful comeback. How did you prepare for it?
It was a tough season for me, I had just played the first game of the Ranji Trophy and got picked for the series against West Indies on the basis of my performance in the series against New Zealand A. It was tough on me to get picked into the Indian team and then on the same day to get injured and be out for three months. It was long break and there was nothing to do. I couldn’t do much because of the fracture. Every day was like a month.
Before the Deodhar Trophy West Zone League that I played in, different things went into the preparation. First I was at the NCA for my rehabilitation, and then I started bowling. Gradually, I got my rhythm back. And so it was a long journey in a short span. It has been tough on me, but I took it as a challenge and right now I am back.
What was it that you did that has helped you come back so well?
Nothing much. I kept thinking about what I had I done during the A series against New Zealand, because that was where I was bowling at a 100 percent and the rhythm was fantastic. So after a break of a month or so, I started thinking what I was doing and what I wanted to improve. I wanted to become a better bowler after that. I had a challenge to come back. Because it was a long break, I couldn’t do much and I was just thinking, sitting at home, doing nothing. The only thing was, I wanted to get back on the field, and I was dying to get back.
What is your strength while bowling on subcontinent wickets?
I just stick to my basics. I bowl in the stumps and try to get the ball to swing away from the right-hander, and the same way get it in for the left-hander.
You have been picked by the Rajasthan Royals where you will have quite a few of your Mumbai teammates. How does that feel?
It feels great to be part of a new team after six long years. I was with the Mumbai Indians, and to be part of this new team is going to be a really new experience for me and one that I am looking forward to.
RR is known for giving opportunities to emerging players. Do you look forward to that?
Yes, absolutely! I wasn’t getting proper chances when I was with the Mumbai Indians, because there were all great bowlers there. Here, it is a new team, a young team, so I am sure I will get chances. I just have to prove myself on that level.
Are you raring to have a go at your Mumbai and former MI teammate Rohit Sharma?
Rohit is a wonderful guy and a wonderful player. He has been in good form. I am raring to have a go at him.
How much has Zaheer Khan’s presence helped you?
Bowling in tandem with Zaheer is really great. He is the greatest bowler that India has produced and to share the new ball with him is an honour for me.
What have you picked up from him?
How to get the batsman out and how to plan and set the batsman up while bowling. The things that I have learnt are bowling with the old ball and how to reverse the ball. And once last year, or the year before that, he shared with me things about wrist position and how to hold the ball when you are swinging it. Also, how to pitch it up and how to get back spin (are what I learnt from him). There were many things that he shared with me.
And along with that, the help that I got from Sachin last year was amazing. That was the best thing that I could have ever got. When he used to stand at mid-on or mid-off, he used to tell me what to bowl and where to bowl. And looking at the situation, he used to help me a lot while bowling and that has improved me as a bowler and improved my mentality as well.
What is your goal going into the season?
The goal is to give my best this year. It is going to be big season ahead; there is the England series and Australia series coming up. So this IPL is going to be really crucial and I am looking forward to it.
What have been the gains from IPL for you over the years?
It was really new for me when I played first. I hadn’t, till then, played in front of such big crowds. So it was a completely new thing for me. And it was a matter of pride to share the dressing room with great players. I had always dreamt of sharing a dressing room with such players.
What has helped your bowling over the last few years?
I have improved on my pace and consistency, which was lacking when I started playing.
As a bowler grows older, skill along with pace becomes very crucial. What is your take on that?
With pace and skill, fitness was important for me. Initially, I didn’t look at fitness much, but later on, the senior players pushed me during the off-season camp. They helped me with fitness. And I learnt a lot about fitness and how it helps and why it is important.