Mumbai: Can I please…drive this car?
The black gleaming Bentley, standing majestically amidst a row of white Innovas in a narrow lane behind Wandkhede’s pavilion box, was too tempting for Irfan Pathan to resist. But the question left the driver flummoxed, as he hesitated to hand over the keys and looked towards the owner of that car for approval.
Yuvraj Singh smiled and nodded in approval, sitting next to Irfan for a quick round of the Wankhede. “The car looks so heavy but it’s so light at the wheel. It swerves so nicely even in narrow lanes,” says Irfan in a quick review, adding “it’s better drive than my Mini Cooper”.
But the talk of the Wankhede on Monday afternoon was not the swerve of the Bentley, but the swing of Irfan. The left-arm seamer came back with figures of 3 for 10 in his four overs which sent back Yuvraj first ball, apart from Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant. “I will not be flattered by the figures, for me it was much pleasing to see my ball swing and to be able to find my rhythm,” he says.
Irfan is not a guy to go after figures, so much so that he has slashed his base price in the IPL auction to half --- from Rs 1 crore where he was picked up by Dhoni’s team Pune Super Giants to just Rs 50 lakhs this season. “If it was just about numbers, I wouldn’t have kept my base price so low. I have no ego problems that I have played so much so I should get this much… I know my limitations and my strengths. It’s not much how much money I get but about getting matches to play. At this stage of my career it’s much important that I get to play more games and make my case,” he says.
But how crucial is to play as many games as possible in IPL? “It depends on a variety of factors, the combination that an IPL team wants to play. Personally, you want to play as many matches as possible but as a team, you also have to respect the team combination. Sometimes it’s a very difficult job for a captain and coach but I really enjoyed my time in IPL over the last two years,” says Irfan.
“There was a lot of learning, even though I didn’t get much game-time. But the way I am feeling about myself right now, the way the ball is coming out of the hand – the way it’s swinging, am getting a lot of nicks into the slips, good batsmen are getting out – I feel like I am in a good rhythm. When you are feeling good about yourself, raaste hai jo apne aap khul jaate hai. I hope this year will be much better than the last few years, not only playing but performing well in IPL and much bigger level,” he says. “I have been playing cricket for 15 years. When you are playing for so long, a lot of people tend to focus on one-day and T20s more. Yes, you could say that at a time where I am but still a lot of people are playing till 44. I am just 31-32, so it should be how fit you are and what you can do at that time.
Irfan though is slightly irritated to be clubbed along a band of boys who is notoriously seen only just before IPL season. “If you look at the recent past, it’s happened only once four years ago when I genuinely missed out on a domestic season due to injuries. It can happen to anyone. When you are playing for so long, injuries are bound to happen to anyone. A lot of people are gonna talk, that doesn’t really bother me but they should be careful while speaking. It affects since it creates perception about players... Mahaul ban jaata hai. Ever since whatever issue I had with BCA was settled, I have played the whole season. One-dayers, T20, Ranji Trophy and the T20 tournament, I have played everything and have bowled a lot of overs as well. Even then, if they club me along with IPL to IPL players, it’s unfortunate,” he says.
Irfan enjoyed his spell as much as the little ride but is now looking forward to drive home the advantage he’s had with his rich haul, into the IPL.