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India's Pathan keen to rediscover top form

Sanjay Rajan

India bowling prospect Irfan Pathan believes his disappointing performance on the recent tour of West Indies was just a minor setback and he is confident of returning to his best form soon.

Expected to spearhead a youthful pace attack, the 21-year-old left-armer emerged as one of the few failures in India's first series victory in the Caribbean for 35 years.

Selected for only one of the four matches, Pathan returned modest figures of two wickets for 93 in the drawn second test at St Lucia as his team mates went on to capture the series by a 1-0 margin.

"Sometimes things don't go your way," Pathan said over the phone from his hometown Baroda.

"It's not just me, I guess it happens to every cricketer over time."

Munaf Patel and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth shared the new ball in the final-test victory while Pathan was relegated to the reserves due to what coach Greg Chappell said was a drop in the bowler's confidence.

Pathan had also struggled in the five-match one-day series that preceded the tests, taking just six wickets in four matches while conceding 179 runs as the hosts stormed to a 4-1 victory.

"I was trying very hard, the wickets were on the slower side," he added, mindful of the fact that next year's World Cup is being held in the Caribbean.

"I'm not frustrated, I'm looking forward to the new challenges," Pathan said.

The bowler does have plenty of opportunities to rediscover his form ahead of the World Cup as India's busy schedule continues next month with a tri-series involving South Africa and Sri Lanka in Colombo.

India then host the Champions Trophy from October 7 to November 5 before embarking on a tour of South Africa in mid-November for three tests and five one-day internationals.


Pathan made an immediate impact on the international scene following his impressive test debut as a teenager during the drawn series in Australia in 2003-04, and he was quick to build on that initial success.

Producing sharp, late movement to trouble the right-handers, he grabbed 12 wickets on the historic tour of Pakistan which followed, helping India claim their maiden test series triumph across the border.

However, a side strain forced him out of the final two games of the 2-1 home series defeat against Australia in late 2004 and he then opted to swap express pace for swing on the advise of Australian bowling great Dennis Lillee.

Pathan initially struggled to regain his form, managing just six wickets in the drawn home test series against Pakistan, but he emerged as the hero in India's victory in Zimbabwe last year with a record 21-wicket haul in the two-test series.

The win was India's first test series triumph outside the sub-continent in 19 years.

Also a batsman with natural flair, Pathan proceeded to make an impact as an all-rounder as India won 17 out of 22 one-dayers against Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan and England before the West Indies brought them crashing back down to earth.

However, he does not think extra pressure as batsman is compromising his bowling.

"I'm happy to do what the team demands, though I'm primarily a bowler," Pathan said.

"As a bowler, I know my limitations and strengths. I'm essentially a swing bowler. Pace, for me, depends on the rhythm I'm in. Swing's my main weapon."

Pathan has also discussed his bowling with the West Indian great Andy Roberts.

"He advised me on my run-up," said Pathan, who has also sought advice from former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram.

"Everyone has a different point of view. You take what you think is best," he added.


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