Ranji Digest, Round 4: Batsmen thrive, and a reckless drive
Pujara scores 12th double ton, Agarwal becomes the latest to join 300-club, and Irfan Pathan is left in the lurch
Irfan Pathan was the latest in a long line of potential all-rounders who came with the epithet ‘The Next Kapil Dev’. But being the next Kapil Dev isn’t easy, especially if you are practically anointed for the job. And so it was that the prodigal son went from being India’s best bet with the ball to someone who could bowl a bit and bat a bit before vanishing from the scene altogether. He was Greg Chappell’s blue-eyed boy. And Irfan did play a big part in India's One-day international and Test series wins in Pakistan in 2004, through his exploits with the ball. But the batting was improving around the same time and gradually, his bowling dipped. The prodigious movement into the right-handers was still there, but the pace had dipped by yards. But while a hat trick in the Karachi Test in 2006 raised hopes again, by the end of the year, he was sent back from the South Africa tour and then taken for the 2007 World Cup and not fielded even once. The 2007 World Twenty20 was a happy break as he won the man of the match award in the final against Pakistan, but then it was back to the wilderness. Was it the Chappell Effect? Or did the early success go to his head? Surely Irfan should have achieved a lot more? But the good thing is that he is initiating a turnaround. The pace isn’t quite what is was back in 2003, but the new Irfan is a more mature athlete who knows what he is capable of and is willing to earn his wickets instead of expecting them easily. That’s what pushed Delhi Daredevils to buy him in 2011 and though he didn’t set the Indian Premier League on fire, he looks a lot stronger and surer now. He is back in the India team after a strong 2011-12 Ranji Trophy, where he picked up 21 wickets from five games. And though he will probably never be the next Kapil Dev, Indian cricket fans will be happy if he returns to being the Irfan Pathan they had when he started out in 2003.