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Unusual first for Irfan Pathan
- It’s a collective decision, says Vengsarkar

Durban: The thrashing Irfan Pathan received (none for 74 in 11 overs) in the two-dayer against the KwaZulu-Natal Invitation XI has ended the South Africa tour for him. In a move without precedent, in Indian cricket at least, he has been asked to return home and get back his rhythm by turning out for Baroda in the Ranji Trophy.

“It’s a collective decision... Rahul (Dravid), Greg Chappell and I had been mulling over it... There’s no point in Irfan sitting in the dressing room... We’ve taken this step for his benefit,” selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar told The Telegraph.

The decision was announced by Team India captain Rahul Dravid on Monday morning. One understands he’s the one who spoke to Pathan before going public. The 22-year-old, who has ceased being a regular both in Tests and ODIs, took the news gracefully.

Ironically, Pathan had begun the year by becoming the second Indian (after Harbhajan Singh) to take a Test hattrick. That, of course, was at the National Stadium in Karachi. He’s ending 2006 on a very different note, though.

Here are excerpts from what Dravid said:

“Irfan is a very important member in the lead-up to the World Cup, but he hasn’t been getting enough cricket on tour and it’s in his best interest to go home and play the next two Ranji matches... We’ve discussed it with him and he himself feels the need to bowl in order to get his rhythm back...

“He’s a very important member both for the near future and later... Irfan has struggled a bit, but that happens... He went through something similar last year (in the home series versus Pakistan), but worked hard and turning out for Middlesex helped... He bowled a lot of overs for the County... He needs to bowl in match conditions and can take confidence from the fact that he’s young.

“We have back-up in the form of Munaf Patel (who didn’t play the first Test), so no replacement is being sought...”

Till late on Monday, Pathan’s travel plans hadn’t been finalised.

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