The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ĎCricket is a hard game and doesnít offer guaranteesí
- Irfan Pathan explains why he still doesnít see himself as an allrounder

Jaipur: Terrific with the bat in Nagpur; superb with the ball in Mohali. Ifran Pathan is in form and the Sri Lankans are paying dearly. The 21-year-old (who has developed an accent) spoke to The Telegraph at the Team India hotel.

The following are excerpts

Q The season began with the tri-series in Sri Lanka. Were you comfortable with the rhythm there'

A As Iíd been dropped for the last two ODIs against Pakistan, the tournament marked my comeback... I was under some pressure, but the short stint with Middlesex proved helpful... I didnít get many wickets (in Sri Lanka), but swung the ball and was generally happy with my rhythm.

What did you learn at Middlesex'

Lots... I learnt to adjust to a new environment. For example, there werenít any familiar faces in the dressing room and, if I had a problem, I couldnít straightaway turn to the captain (Ben Hutton) or the coach (John Emburey)... Of course, they were helpful, but being in the Indian dressing room is different... Then, I learnt to bowl on different surfaces in a short span of time... Also, learnt much about professionalism. Being an overseas pro, there was more responsibility to deliver.

You had a bit of a shoulder problem...

It got blown out of proportion by the Media... Owing to the cold, I got a Ďcatchí while throwing off balance... There wasnít anything more to it.

Then, you got injured in the tri-series final...

While fielding, yes, which is why I skipped the Afro-Asia Cup.

Thanks to the swing, you were often unplayable in Zimbabwe. Did you work harder than usual'

(Laughs) Iíd been told that the wickets wouldnít be helpful, but they were... I got enough swing because I adjusted to the wickets and bowled in the right areas... The length becomes critical. That the Kookabura was being used also made a difference. Usually, it swings appreciably. I accept that Iíve got to get used to balls of different brands, though.

Do brands really make such a difference'

Itís how you Ďprepareí some brands... The kind of treatment you give the ball.

In a fresh series, how long does it take for a fast bowler to get into rhythm'

Depends... Could take some overs, may take many matches... Itís all about how the bowler himself feels.

While in Zimbabwe, you said that the coach (Greg Chappell) helped you quickly find rhythm. What did he do'

Greg and (sports scientist) Ian Frazer devised drills both for bowling and batting and that helped... Greg reads the wickets well and suggests the length I should bowl... Often, small suggestions make a big difference.

How much of cricket is confidence-driven'

Confidence is everything, but you can still get hit in the ODIs...

What were your thoughts before the start of the ongoing series ' the first of the 2005-06 season at home'

Given the nature of wickets in India, Iíd pepared myself for tough days... Iím still learning and challenges donít deter me.

The series was preceded by the Challenger, where you even opened the batting in the first match...

(Laughs again) Opening with Sachin (Tendulkar) was a wonderful experience...

When were you told you would bat at No. 3 in Nagpur'

On the evening before the match... It gave me time to mentally prepare myself... I told myself I must stay relaxed and play the shots which come naturally.

You thoroughly enjoyed the promotion (getting 83)...

I did, thanks to Sachinís presence at the other end... He guided me on the strengths of the bowlers and the shots I should go for... He made me feel so comfortable.

Did you become conscious you were approaching a hundred'

To an extent... At the same time, I knew if it had to happen, it would. Iím not disappointed that I fell 17 short.

In the next ODI (Mohali), you had a blast with the ball (MoM with four for 37). Now, are you worried that the pressure is going to be more'

Iíll be inviting pressure if I keep thinking about it... Today, I donít see myself as an allrounder. My primary job is to get wickets and most of the effort is going to go towards bowling. To become an allrounder, I guess one needs five-six years of international experience. I havenít even completed two years... I need to have my feet on the ground and get over my limitations. I donít look at the mirror and tell myself that I've already become an allrounder.

What have you learnt from Adelaide (debut Test, in December 2003) till Jaipur'

That success doesnít come easy... That cricket is a hard game and doesnít offer guarantees... At the end of last season, I even got dropped...

Did that teach you something'

That there are no guarantees and I need to know my body and own form well.

Your debut was under Sourav Ganguly. Now, the captaincy has gone to Rahul Dravid. Does the comfort level vary with a change at the top'

I think every Indian bowler gets the field he desires... Sourav did a wonderful job in the past and Rahul is doing a wonderful job now... I havenít had a problem with either.

Has any batsman dented you confidence'

Look, I donít think too much about any batsman... If I do, then my game is bound to get affected. I back myself but, yes, if Iím not bowling well then even a No. 11 will hit me for a straight drive.

Surely, life has changed in the past two years...

Big time... Itís difficult going to all the places I want to... Itís not that big a problem in Mumbai and Bangalore, but Iíve lost the freedom to move about in the other cities... At home, however, Iím still the same Irfan... I continue to trouble my mother...

Could even more success go to your head'

It wonít... First, because of my family and, secondly, my close friendsí circle.

Today, are you indebted to anybody more than the rest'

(Emotionally) The late Bashir Sheikh, my coach and mentor... Heís no more, but remains alive in my heart... Also, the Baroda Sports Club... Actually, a lot of people have helped me in different stages of my career... (Chief selector) Kiran More, I remember, gave me a pair of boots when I was 14... I still have those...

John Wright remembers you with affection...

Itís mutual and I canít forget him... He helped me not get carried away... Told me what to expect as an India player and what to do and what not to do... He made me tough mentally... John will always be special.

The last question: You must be excited that the last match of this series is in Vadodara, your hometown...

Absolutely... The squad hasnít yet been picked, but God willing, Iím going to be in the XV... Iím also concerned, though: How will I oblige so many well-wishers with complimentaries!

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