Is Irfan Pathan’s stint another Chappell controversy?

  • Asif M D Hajra
  • Publish Date: Sep 24 2018 3:32AM
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  • Updated Date: Sep 24 2018 3:32AM
Is Irfan Pathan’s stint another Chappell controversy?File Photo

This March a news item mentioned that international cricketer and one of the most promising all-rounders of India in the past - Irfan Pathan – has been roped in by J&K Cricket Association for one-year term as mentor-cum-player. Reportedly, it was a senior J&K cricketer who had introduced Pathan and recommended him to be associated with the team.  

Pathan - a Baroda veteran having played for his home team for 17 seasons besides being captain of Baroda for the past two domestic seasons, is to represent J&K this season as a player besides holding coaching clinics across the state for development of the game. 

Was joining J&K his first choice?  

Or it was an alternative to the snub by Baroda selectors during the domestic season, who preferred Deepak Hooda as Baroda’s captain for the Ranji Trophy as well as in shorter formats of the game. Baroda Cricket Association had appointed him as captain of the side at the start of 2017-18 Ranji season, but removed him from the post after just two matches. Under him, Baroda first lost to Madhya Pradesh by 8 wickets – he had scored 80 and 4 with one wicket in the match – and then drew with Andhra, in which Pathan scored 0 and 4 with again only a single wicket. He remained unselected in the ensuing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Moreover, like IPL auction 2017, Irfan went unsold in IPL 2018 as well. For India, he last played in 2012.    

Whatever the reason, Irfan arrived in the state in June and soon after interacted with many young cricketers in Srinagar. Reportedly, he set out an ambitious plan to unearth the hidden talent from virgin places of the state. The plan envisaged to visit every district of the State to identify the cricketing talent waiting for a single opportunity of recognition. Moreover, the idea was to work alongwith senior players of the State to shape the cricketing future of the state.  

Moving top-down, Pathan as a mentor expressed to inculcate mental toughness among the J&K cricketers in association with other technical team members. He also expressed to inspire the players from both the regions to act as a cohesive unit.

Over the first phase of his tenure, Irfan held district level tournaments, provincial level talent hunt for the Under-14, 16, 19 and 23 level cricketers, screening camp and trial matches of among shortlisted players arranged into five different teams. An outcome of this preliminary exercise, 35 probables were shortlisted for this season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy which included 3 new faces from district level tournaments. 

Irfan’s association with the J&K team had raised hopes of reform in the cricketing scenario of the State both structural as well as performance-wise. However, just before the litmus test - at the brink of announcement of final State team for the upcoming Vijay Hazare trophy – controversies have piled up with the resignation of two members of the selection committee – former cricketer Dhruv Mahajan followed by Vidya Bhaskar. The resigning members cited ‘interference’ by Irfan Pathan in the selection process ahead of the season as one of the reasons for their resignation. The duo contested that the BCCI constitution had made it amply clear that an individual cannot hold more than two posts and a player is also considered as a post.

The resignation of the two members of the selection committee was followed by refusal of the two other members of the selection committee – Zahoor Bhat and Parvez Qaiser – to be part of the selection process anymore and subsequently the duo also tendered their resignation citing the same reason of ‘undue interference’ by the player and mentor, Irfan Pathan. 

The result of the controversy was that J&KCA was constrained to depute the same squad for Vijay Hazare trophy that was earlier short-listed by the selectors. 

And on ground, J&K suffered first defeat of the season at the hands of Bengal on September 20. Having failed on ‘Cohesion’ test, Irfan’s performance even as a player in the first match has not been encouraging as he failed to make impact with both bat and the ball. While batting, Irfan Pathan got out without troubling the scoreboard and in bowling he bowled 3 overs and took one wicket only.  

It may be unfair to call Irfan’s stint a failure given the fact that it is only the start of the season, yet the question remains - ‘Is Irfan stint another Chappell controversy?’ 

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