12 September 2006

Eyes on Irfan

Tomorrow, the unlikeliest of cricket venues will light up with BCCI largesse to bear witness to India and the Windies attempt to knock a rusty Australia off their pedestal. The Aussies have no doubt been boosted by the return of a certain Glenn McGrath, him of the metronomic accuracy. The Windies have been on an upward swing in the one-dayers, on the back of a Dwayne Bravo shot-in-the-arm. India, throughly humiliated the last time they played the limited overs game, will have a point to prove. If ratings are anything to go by, it will be an India-Australia contest, with Lara's men providing the colourful sideshow. But as we have seen so often in cricket, ratings mean next to nothing. India hasn't played any competetive cricket for a while and the Aussies haven't got their flannels dirty for even longer, and the last time they did so was against Bangladesh.

Everyone will be watching the great Tendulkar make his comeback. Is his shoulder okay? Will he be sedate? Will he and Sehwag set KL on fire? All these questions have been posed ad nauseum by the media in India. Several other questions deserve greater scrutiny. Such as Irfan Pathan. Two years back, he was the ICC's Most Promising Young Player. Picking up early wickets for India with a consistency that brought back memories of Wasim Akram, and contributing usefully with the bat across the globe, and all over the batting order, he seemed set for a long and glorious career - definitely the next Kapil Dev, this-time-we-got-it-right. Sadly, that hasn't been the case. Irfan has dissappointed with the new ball, most memorably in the West Indies when he became India's fourth choice seamer. And in the middle of it all, Chappel decided to open his mouth. We do not know, and we will never know perhaps, how Pathan reacted to those comments on his lost confidence. All manner of experts have been expressing their hope that Irfan will make a comeback, putting even more pressure on him.

Anyway, we will know soon enough.