New Delhi, Jan 17: A fit-again Irfan Pathan feels that he is close to bowling at his best and it's just a matter of time before he is again back in contention for the seam bowling all-rounder's slot in the Indian cricket team that has been up for grabs for some time.
Thirty-year-old Irfan could have played a lot more than 29 Tests and 120 ODIs had it not been for sudden slump in form and subsequent injuries that robbed away his natural ability to bowl the swinging delivery back into the right hander.
"There is little point in thinking about the past. What matters now is that I am fully fit and the focus is on completing the entire Ranji Trophy season. I know playing for India again is not far away. I still have good five to seven years of cricket left in me," Irfan told mediapersons after taking three wickets for Baroda against Railways in a Ranji Trophy match that ended here yesterday (January 16).
It was his second match after being long time away from the game due to a knee injury. Pathan Junior had scored 98 besides three wickets in his comeback match against Uttar Pradesh. Although injuries are a part and parcel of a sportsman's life, Irfan at times finds it painful when critics label a particular player as "injury-prone".
"It is unfortunate that we tend to label sportspersons who have been injured multiples times. But outside it is not the case. You look at Australia's Ryan Harris. He has been injured so many times and has still managed to make a comeback. So injuries are part and parcel of a sportsman's life," said Irfan.
How does he rate his performance in the first two games of the season? "When I was making a comeback in the last match, I knew the more I would play the better I would get, both body wise and bowling wise. This match I had set the goal of doing even better. Most importantly, I was able to perform when the team needed."
'I feel my rhythm has been good'
Irfan bowled 31 overs in two innings against Uttar Pradesh and 23 overs in one against Railways. "I feel my rhythm has been good. I am very close to bowling at my best. The best part about four-day cricket is that you dont's bowl a single spell.
"You bowl with the new ball when you are fresh and then at the end of the day may be with the old ball when one is tired. So variety of spells helps in working out a rhythm," said Irfan.
India have tried many for the fast-bowling all-rounder slot but the search has proved to be unsuccessful. The selectors have gone ahead with Stuart Binny for the World Cup but Irfan is fully aware of the perpetual concern.
"People around me talk about this all the time and I of course know about it too (the lack of fast-bowling all-rounder. What is important for me is to focus on the process (of making a comeback). The rest will happen on its own. To play for India again is the biggest motivation. But to think that I will be recalled with a good performance or two would be the wrong approach," he said.
'I was frustrated on two occasions'
Irfan recalls the times when frustration got the better of him and he had little idea on how to face the recurring injury problems.
"I can recall two instances when I was frustrated. One was in 2010 when I had the back injury, the other while I was doing rehab for the knee. Eventually I slept over it and I was back to normal."
How did he spend the time away from the field? "When you stay out of the game, you think a lot about the game. How you can better your training schedule. You get into the detail. If not major, you think about the minor tweaks that can make a difference. I worked a lot with Irfan Pathan senior back home, the assistant coach of Baroda and TA Sekhar sir. His feedback on my current action is very important for the road ahead," said Irfan.
Constant injury troubles have also made him wiser. "I still welcome advice but it is more important to use your own brain. Everyone things differently and it is on you how to take the best out the advice," he concluded.