Lahore: Celebrating wasn’t quite the first thing on Irfan Pathan’s mind, after starring in Team India’s epoch-authoring win at the Gaddafi on Wednesday. In fact, on returning to the Pearl Continental, the youngster requested a phone card to facilitate a “lengthy” chat with the family back in Vadodara.
“I had to wait, but it was worth it... Khushi ke mauke pe, ghar baat karne se aur bhi khushi hui... I spoke to everybody — my parents (Sameem Bano and Mohammed Khan) as also brother Yusuf and sister Guddi,” Pathan told The Telegraph on the morning after.
That over, Pathan offered namaaz, formally thanking God after having done so at the ground itself. His father, by the way, is the muezzin at the Jama Masjid. That probably explains why he appears more religious than the rest.
Many, including Imran Khan, felt Pathan (and not V.V.S. Laxman) should have been the Man of the Match for an unbeaten 20 and three for 32, but the youngster himself thinks differently. “Look, so brilliant was Laxmanbhai’s century that it set up our victory... I’m very happy for him and, really, there will be opportunities for me to get awards...”
Pointing out that his “asli education” had just begun, Pathan said: “I’m learning every day... Wickets here have been different from Australia, where I made my debut, and one has to work doubly hard... You can’t bowl at one pace and, as has been talked about, kafi bada dil hona chahiye.”
He added: “I’ve adjusted to the conditions and, now, must carry this confidence into the Test series... Woh bhi humko jeetna chahiye, maaza phir aur ayega... I’ve kept a target for the three Tests... Only, I wouldn’t like to reveal it at this point.”
Whatever his goal for the longer version, Pathan finished the ODIs as the most successful Indian bowler — eight wickets, one more than Zaheer Khan — and, from a mere three matches. Incidentally, it was Zaheer’s hamstring injury which paved the way for Pathan’s Test debut, in Adelaide, four months ago.
Asked whether his preparation for the decider had been different, Pathan answered: “Yes... It’s not that I thought overtime, though... On the contrary, I didn’t think much about the game. Had I done so, it’s possible I would have put myself under severe pressure... It’s because of what I did, or didn’t do, that I was relaxed...”
Thanking Sourav Ganguly for again giving him the new ball, Pathan maintained: “Agar captain itna confidence dikhaye, then you get more pumped up... How do I come through as so passionate' Comes naturally...”
Pathan “thanked” senior pro Sachin Tendulkar as well for “constant encouragement.” Not wanting to be politically incorrect, perhaps, he had much the same thing to say of vice-captain Rahul Dravid and “Laxmanbhai.”
Accepting that emerging a full-fledged allrounder — like idol Wasim Akram — was high on his agenda, Pathan remarked: “Obviously, that’s something for the near future. Yet, months into my India career, I’m particularly keen on improving as a strike bowler. I’m committed about my batting, but am not desperate to be recognised as an allrounder.”
Pathan’s attitude is commendable and this 19-year-old is headed for bigger times. He may have missed his Board exams (from Muslim Education Society High School), but certainly taught Pakistan a lesson.