I'm a Pathan and I live by the name: Irfan Pathan

JAMMU: In the winter of 2017 when former Indian pacer Irfan Pathan had retirement on his mind, he was called for a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association administrator CK Prasad, CEO Syed Ashiq Bukhari and former Indian pacer Kapil...

I'm a Pathan and I live by the name: Irfan Pathan
JAMMU: In the winter of 2017 when former Indian pacer Irfan Pathan had retirement on his mind, he was called for a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association administrator CK Prasad, CEO Syed Ashiq Bukhari and former Indian pacer Kapil Dev in New Delhi.
He didn't think he wanted to take up the offer of being a player and mentor of the state's senior team. He went with offer letters from various lucrative leagues abroad. But, a remark from Kapil turned his plans around. "Take up the offer Irfan. It'll be a service to the country."

"Once Kapil paaji said country, the three league offers I had didn't seem lucrative anymore. I did give it a thought, but his words kept coming back to me. It didn't take me long to pack my bags and head here," recalled Pathan, the mentor of the team that has entered only its third quarterfinals in the competition's history.

With his contract coming to an end after the season, Pathan isn't sure if he will continue but believes when the time comes, he'll leave a content man having brought about the changes he wanted to. In an interview with TOI, the 35-year-old, who played 29 Tests and 120 ODIs for India, looked back on the two-year journey with the team. Excerpts:

On the initial stumbling blocks: I think it was the mindset. It's a big state with 22 districts and they were vastly different people who spoke eight different languages or dialects. So, to get them on the same page was a challenge. The first task was to bring about oneness irrespective of where they came from. Also, a lot of people wanted to just play for themselves. Even last year some just wanted to play for survival in the team. Coach Milap Mewada and the team management worked hard to bring about the change in attitude and approach.

On breaking the ice with the players: I needed to make an extra effort. It took me nearly one season to gain the trust. Now I can tell them anything and they'll do it without a second thought. I had a lot of one-on-one sessions with the players, spoke extensively to them and understood them as individuals and players.


On the job satisfaction: The satisfaction I have here is immense because it allowed me to learn along with them and also make a telling difference. Last season, during the initial days of the camp, one of the pacers was bowling with torn shoes. Some of them didn't have proper trousers. On the other hand, some of them who had the facilities were lacking in experience and knowledge. So, the work I needed to do was both on and off the field.
Our aim was to take cricket to the districts, and we have done that with players from various districts playing at all age groups. We've had some of them make their Ranji Trophy debut and bag IPL contracts as well. So, this job satisfaction cannot be compared with anything. I look back with the satisfaction of having made a difference to a few players' careers.
On drawing from experience: A lot of what I do as a mentor comes from personal experience. I didn't want the players to go through what I had to. I've done everything from being the new-ball bowler to first-change and even batted at various positions. But when I didn't do well, there was nobody to clarify what went wrong. That experience came handy. I told the boys if their roles changed because of team requirement and they don't perform we'll back them as long as they give their best for the team.
Any regrets? None. These two years have been special, and it will stay with me forever. It wasn't easy. There were non-performing people who lost jobs in the new set-up. They created some nuisance as well. But that did not worry me because I'm here to work as a professional and I'll do my work. I'm a fighter, I'm a Pathan and I live by the name.