Irfan Pathan – a talent that goes a-begging : He is unarguably the best all-rounder in the squad of Rising Pune Suoergiants (RPS). In the ongoing BCCI’s premium tournament, Indian Premier League (IPL), RPS, lead by the Team India limited versions skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhonu, have played 12 games out of the possible 14 in the round robin league, lost 9 of them and won 3 games. They are languishing at the bottom of the table with 6 points to their credit.
Dhoni, who had coined the term, ‘winning combination’, during Team India’s winning streak, is a very reluctant man when it comes to making changes in the team. He likes to stick to a specific Playing XI, even if the winning combination ends up on the losing side.
This quality of Dhoni has been witnessed in the ongoing IPL, where he has shown very little interest in making changes in the Playing XI, irrespective of the outcome, though he may have his own logic for the same.
However, this quality of the skipper does not augur well either for the team or for the players who get ignored and unnoticed, inspite of having the necessary talent and the statistics to be in the Playing XI.
One such talented player who needs to blame his stars, rather than anything else for not finding himself in the sipper’s ‘scheme of things’, is Irfan Pathan.
Made to warm the bench since the commencement of the tournament, Irfan has, thus far, featured only in two games.
He played his first game on 17th April, 2016, against KXIP at PCA IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali.
Opting to bat, RPS managed to score only 152 runs for the loss of 7 wickets in 20 overs. Going in to bat at the fall of Faf de Plessis’ wicket, in the first delivery of the 20th over, irfan got to face only two deliveries and scored 2 runs.
A seasoned all rounder, Irfan got to bowl only one over and he returned with the figure of 1-0-7-0. It was as if Dhoni had forgotten the existence of Irfan in the Playing XI.
He persisted with Ishant Sharma (3-0-26-0), Thisara Perera (2.4-0-30-0) even though they were bleeding runs. Eventually RPS lost the game by 6 wickets with 8 deliveries to spare.
The second opportunity that came by way of Irfan was in the game against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on 14th May, 2016, at Eden Gardens. This was almost after a month. Meanwhile he was assigned the ‘drinks and towel’ duty.
In the match against KKR, RPS opting to bat, Irfan went in, at the fall of Saurabh Tiwary’s wicket in the 10th over. Soon Dhoni joined him in the middle.
The penultimate delivery of the 14th over bowled by Sunil Narine to Dhoni, caused a huge drama. Dhoni could not read the spin. He reached across to pat the ball towards point and ran right away. Irfan took off at first, and then just froze. He didn”t say “No”. He just stopped. By the time Dhoni realised, he was halfway down. The otherwise cool RPS captain, jumped and yelled in frustration, knowing he was to be dismissed, but then Irfan took a few steps down, crossed Dhoni and sacrificed his wicket.
Irfan had faced 8 balls for his 7 runs.
RPS ended up scoring 103 runs for the loss 6 wickets in 17.4 overs. The weather-struck match was truncated and D/L method was applied. KKR went on in the game by 8 wickets.
Irfan Pathan did not bowl even a single over in that match. With just 2 more games remaining for RPS in the tournament, since they are not going to qualify for the ‘play off’ stage, it would be interesting to see whether Irfan does get to play and even if he does, whether he does get to bat and bowl, to justify his being in the squad.