Success has many fathers but failure …

In a foreword to the eminently readable Coach, Bill Bradley (among other things a Rhodes Scholar, Olympic Gold Medallist, ten year professional with the New York Knicks, US Senator for 22 years and a candidate for Democratic Nomination for President), says ..

Leadership means getting people to think, believe, see, and do what they might not have without you. It means possessing the vision to set the right goal and the decisiveness to do it single-mindedly. It means being aware of the fears and anxieties felt by those you lead even as you urge them to overcome those fears. A great coach embodies these qualities and transforms them into a force that can effect powerful changes in those they lead.

Wonderful. Lets see how this applies to Irfan Pathan.

India of the 21st century is full of amazing success stories built on grit. Not many are like this. Irfan’s first coach, the one that got him through the grind of the u-15s and taught him the basics used to charge Rs 20 per student. 12-13 years ago.

By the time he was 20, Jon Landau’s “I have seen the future of Rock-n-Roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen”, was considered an apt epithet.

In that article are some wonderful nuggets of opinion.

His first coach, Mehndi Sheikh :

Irfan was 12 and so fragile that his deliveries barely reached the other end. “Frustrated batsmen pleaded with me to convert him into a left-arm spinner. My coaching was simple: a wicket at both ends of the square and a handkerchief at the short-of-length spot. Irfan was studious and never complained about the six-hour training regime. It began when the sun was blazing at two in the afternoon and would end at eight in the evening.” 

His first Ranji coach Vineet Wadkar :

“During one of the matches in his first season, he started vomiting. Back in the dressing room I told him to take rest, but he said, `Nahin, nahin, sir, I am okay.’ He just rested for an over, went back into the field and took an important wicket. His attitude was tremendous. He filled up the breach created by Zaheer’s absence, which eventually played its part in our winning the title that year.”

During Irfan’s early bowling-spearhead years, Rahul Dravid :

“You only have to look at his batting to understand his attitude. Normally lower-order batsmen come and swing a few. In the nets and in the middle, he is determined to bat well, bat properly.”

Any signs of a shirker?

This was Andrew Leipus on Walk the Talk.

Qn: Who are your favourites in the gym now?
AL: Irfan Pathan is a champion of a kid. And Greg and I find that we actually have to hold him back, he wants to do too much. …Irfan is an amazing find. But keeping him on the park is going to be a mission. Because he is just so keen, that youthful zest…. And he just wants to train and train and train and wants to get better and better and stronger and quicker. And like I said, we have to work out a balance between what he does on the field in terms of volume of workload and what he does off the field. Injuries start occurring once the workload volume increases. So we have to keep a record of how much he is bowling in the nets and at practice and how much he is bowling in matches and how much time there is off between matches and balance that out.

With that kind of work ethic , it wasn’t a surprise that by 2004, Irfan was ICC’s emerging player of the year.

By 2005, he’d taken a hat trick in the first over of a Test Match (Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Mohd Yousuf) – and opened the batting for India in Tests – apart from sundry match winning knocks in ODIs. Akram Plus Plus.

Then things started going wrong.

He came back with a man of the match performance in the Champions Trophy and ostensibly,  remained an integral part of the Dravid – Chappell process but the consistency and dependability was gone. “The number of Man-of-the-Matches that Irfan’s won is testimony to the fact that he’s a proven matchwinner for us.” said Dravid. “He takes wickets early, contributes with the bat, is good in the field. I wanted to go with someone who’s capable of doing it for me on the big occasion. It also gave us the opportunity to play the second spinner, which I knew was important in these conditions.”

By the South African tour tho, it all went awry. After getting a 100 and a 40 in a tour game, Irfan was sent back home, to get some “time in the middle” ahead of the World Cup.

Greg Chappell’s interview comes close to accepting some of the blame.

He’s a human being. He’s a 21-year-old who has been asked to do a lot in the last twelve months. We’ve used him as a strike bowler, we’ve used him as a shock batsman. We’ve used him in many different roles….We can break players if we’re not careful. That’s why we have had to pull players out at various stages. With Pathan we recognised that we might do serious damage if we kept pushing him. The short-term damage of leaving him out was much less of a danger than the long-term damage of keeping him in.

Since then, Irfan Pathan’s been selected for the World Cup where he hasnt managed a game and has since been dropped from both the ODI and the Test sides for the “lets see if they have it” Bangladesh tour.

Irfan Pathan is 22 years young.

What went wrong ? How can it be set right ?


34 thoughts on “Success has many fathers but failure …

  1. Let him play county cricket.. and if he is not willing, make him. The kid needs to rediscover what made him special first up..

    Away from the crowds, in helpful conditions, not too many distractions, a support system that is more responsive than the Indian one – let him rediscover his mojo on his own terms.

    Also will keep him active, instead of sitting on his rear for the next two months.

  2. Thanks Sfx.. it was the experimentation that killed him.. I am not so sure about county cricket.. the selectors never look at county form.. and the burnout there is much higher.. is playing 5 days a week a solution for a man who bowls at 100kmph?

  3. Rahul … That experimentation was what was making him such a champion at one stage. Where does one stop? By all accounts, everyone seemed to see that the guy was,if anything, overzealous and a big candidate for the risk of burnout. And yet…

    But I don’t think we “killed” the golden goose yet.

    May have been hero se zero, but think the bull market will be back (after this “deeeeeeeeeeeeep” correction) 🙂

  4. Rahul and Sfx,

    Granted that there were mis-steps in the development of Irfan Pathan; so how do we rectify the situation? What is the way forward?

    The bull market will be back, but we have to initiate the correction. Markets don’t correct themselves automatically 🙂

  5. For starters make him play against Bangladesh. If you take RP Singh in the team in his place, there is a serious problem. His problem is more mental than anything else. How do you give him back his confidence? Not by dropping him against Bangladesh for god’s sake. And when do you get him back. I am sure in the 7 match oz series

  6. Tracing back Irfan Pathan’s performance over the last two years tells us what went wrong.

    Team India has a batsman in the top order
    who is incapable of hitting,
    when scoring quick runs is necessary.
    He tried himself as an opener, as No3 and No4.
    But it is against his natural game.

    An extra batsman had to be found
    who could hit at the top like, er…Ganguly.
    Things were hunky dory, we had supersubs, an extra batsman was always handy.

    17 successful run chases later,
    unfortunately, the supersubs were scrapped,
    India lost the luxury of that extra batsman.

    They had to look for one from within the playing XI.

    Irfan was targeted to take that role.
    Whatever coaching was brainwashed into him,
    washed away his basic attributes of a bowler.

    (The proof that India always needed
    an extra batsman is confirmed by the 7+4 strategy in the worldcup.)

    So what really happened to Irfan Pathan?

    1. Chappell had to get rid of Ganguly.
    2. Rahul Dravid became captain and hence fixed in the team.
    3. As an ODI batsman,
    Dravid is an excess baggage.
    Chappell tried to make Pathan carry double loads, his own and that of a top order strike batsman.

    It was too much for a youngster.
    He burnt-out long long before his time.
    The showpiece of Chappell’s doomed experiments.


    1. take away the responsibility of having to be a strike batsman
    2. coach him to be a bowler, he always wanted to be
    3. let him bat to his capabilities at No8.
    He will be the match winner again.
    Somehow I do not think that will happen.

    Some brainless idiot
    sidelined him from the next tour.
    The worst thing that can now be done
    to his morale, is being done.

  7. Im not sure anything has gone wrong. He should be back soon.

    He just needs to stay matchfit (and that means play lots of matches) keep Chaminda Vaas as a role model, and work seriously on his batting.

    County Cricket sounds like a great idea – especially if he can find a county with a wicketkeeper who’s willing to stand up to the wicket to him.

    If RP Singh and Mansoor Amjad can get County spots, it should be easy for Irfan to find a county.

  8. @ Kartikeya Date
    …”Im not sure anything has gone wrong”…

    When a 20 yr old player,
    named the ‘ICC emerging player of the year’,
    within 2 years doesn’t play in the world cup
    and then is dropped from Tests and ODI team, something has badly gone wrong.

    If we still cannot recognise that,
    or are in denial,
    then even God will not be able to save our team.

  9. Homer,

    Someday over a beer, will give you instances of the numerous times that markets have “corrected themselves” the moment I have taken a position against that possibility !!! 🙂

    Loss of confidence doesnt take much….

  10. Rahul,

    Considering that the press clamour is for other bowlers that didnt make it and Irfan isnt even an also-ran at the camp , it seems a really remote possibility that we see him in Bangladesh even if one of the other options pull out for injury or whatever reason. Bad mistake, in my opinion.

    Afro-Asia cup next. But where’s the way back in ?

    The county road is a good option – at least Zaheer’s example says so.

  11. Little Indian, Big Chief 🙂

    I’m a bit hazy about the chronology – but assuming its correct, Supersubs was a part of the game. And Irfan was doing brilliantly during that tenure. As was India as a team.

    You cant fault someone for trying to maximise resources.

    If the objective was to make Irfan an all rounder – or to hone his batting skills, that surely is ok? Was great while it lasted. Somewhere the bowling started to suffer and I honestly think they tried to pull the plug on his burnout as soon as they saw the risk.

    Nobody’s saying that there isnt an issue to be addressed. The point is that the guy’s fundamentals are strong and hence “nothing has gone wrong”.

    Also, do read Kartikeya’s piece.

  12. Ok, this is gossipy and without any basis whatsoever, but I do remember reading somewhere (one of the blogsites? some forum? cant remember ..) about a discipline issue that was at the heart of the South Africa sendoff? Anybody ?

  13. Sfx,

    Beers on me :).

    Pathan scored a 49 at Lahore on a first day green top in 2003-04.

    He also scored 60 oddd against Australia at Bangalore albeit in a losing cause ( against a bowling attack that read Mcgrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicsz, Warne).

    The pedigree has never been in doubt – Pathan as a controlled left arm swing bowler and a handy lower order bat.

    Thing is – what is Pathan now? A batsmen who also bowls or a bowler who also bats?He needs to figure that out for himself and IMHO the best place to do that is England.

  14. Homer,

    Qn – Will the selectors accept Irfan as a batsman who bowls? Or even as a bowler who bats ? Do we have that maturity?

    And I look forward to that beer !!

  15. @SFx, That is not what I meant.

    Why did we need a seven batsman team in the WCC? Because six was not considered enough to cope with the job.
    Now which in the top order six was not enough as an ODI batsman?

    That brings me to the point I am trying to make.
    These days every ODI team needs a hard hitting top order to win, there is no place for an ‘innings building’ batsman in that line up.
    Dravid is not an ODI batsman.
    But as a captain his position became a certainty,
    hence India had to find an extra batsman.

    In supersub era, it was easy, there was the option of having the extra batsman as the supersub.
    And Pathan was working wonders. The pressure on him came only after the rule was scrapped.

    After the SS was scrapped that extra batsman had to from within the XI. Pathan had the talent, so was ‘pushed into’ the role.

    There is nothing wrong in trying to make an all rounder out of a bowler, except Pathan was being asked to be a lot more than just an all rounder.

    He was being made responsible for scoring runs as a top order batsman and getting early wickets. Failure in either role was for him not an option.

    IMO, he was the player who was put under the most severe pressure to perform, in two crucial roles, match after match.

    A player who was still a 20 at the start of a very promising career, had the heaviest weight dumped on his shoulder, way before he could handle it. With obvious results. He got badly ‘burntout’.

    Anyway, there is no point in our arguments. Its a question of either accepting my point as a possibility, or deny it. It won’t make any difference to whatever damage has been done to Pathan.

  16. little indian –

    Not debating or arguing a very well made point.
    Everyone seems agreed on the fact that damage was done. Its just a qn of what role he needs to aim for from here on. And how he is going to go about it.And how acceptable it is going to be to Team India.

    Cheers and again , thanks for a well made argument.

  17. little indian,

    I would not go to the extent of saying that Dravid is NOT a ODI player. I couldn’t get his strike rate statistics for the last 2-3 years but I will bet that they are far superior than his early days. On the other hand, I would also like to look at Sourav ganguly’s strike rate over the last 2-3 years. I don’t think Rahul Dravid is a good captain, but really it’s unfair on the guy if we say he is not fit to be in the ODI team. The problem of late, has been the other way round. With so many (supposedly) aggressive batters in the team, we needed a guy who could stick in the middle. But Dravid failed to do that by trying to emulate a mini Ricky Ponting style of batting.

  18. Hi Rahul,
    These days too much is judged by Aves. and RRs.
    These are stats only and should be used to monitor/appraise an individual’s performance over his career span and not to compare one against the others.
    If you look at the ICC top 100 SRs, Agarkar and Zaheer are way above Dravids and Tendulkars.
    Does that make them better batsmen?

    I like to judge players by their ability to adapt to changing situations as arises during the game and their capability to meet those requirements.

    The talk has been of versatality. Great.
    Our captain is the least versatile of all players.

    Dravid is a Test match player of the highest order. But not an ODI player.
    He does not have any dual attributes.
    His batting invariably runs into trouble the moment he has to up the run rate.
    SRs will never give the true story.
    Holding on in an ODI team just to ‘build innings’ can no longer be justified.

    As long he is captain and a sure selection, our team will continue to struggle.

  19. Thank you Rahul and little indian for calling it for what it is – Rahul Dravid is a liability in the ODI arena, both as batsman and captain.

    While his batsmanship in ODIs c an win him a free pass for another season, his captaincy is abysmal.

    And for a guy who uses the word “process” like it is going out of fashion, he seems to learn nothing from his repeated outings as skipper – the same mistakes manifest themselves over and over again.

  20. Well, statistics maynot give you the complete picture but it still is a good pointer. One can say tomorrow that Bradman’s 100 average is not a pointer to his talent as he only played against one decent team.

    And who is more versatile in our team if I may ask? Ganguly / Robin Uthappa /Harbhajan Singh/ Munaf Patel to question a FEW.

    “Least versatile” ODI player in Indian cricket team is a hotly contested spot and let it be that way rather than giving the crown to the captain.

  21. @ rahul.
    this is argument just for arguments sake.
    Your main argument is against Ganguly.

    Ganguly is far more versatile than Dravid.
    His batting can change gears. He can play the sheet-anchor, he can also walk down the pitch to fast bowlers.
    Dravid can only tap and run. Have you ever asked why has Dravid caused more run outs than any other Indian players?

    Ganguly is a decent change bowler.
    Dravid has under utilised him, I wonder why?
    Dravid doesn’t bowl, neither is he happy putting on the gloves.

    Add to it, Ganguly is a captain better by far.
    If Dravid was not the captain today,
    he would be fighting for a place in our ODI team.

    The fact is, under Ganguly we were losing in finals.
    Under Dravid we are getting booted after the first round, and after the SA 0-4, we didn’t even have a team.
    And please do not quote 17 successful “meaningless” runchases.

  22. Little Indian – When you say Dravid is the LEAST Versatile of all players in the team, I think you were talking of the other 15. If “all players in the team” mean Ganguly – you must be from Calcutta -)

    So I won’t go after the ‘versatile’ Ganguly theory as he was ONLY one player mentioned. I myself don’t believe in Dravid as captaincy material which i think I already wrote.
    But I HAVE to take swipe at one statement about Ganguly.. Can’t help it. I dont seem to remember Ganguly walking down the pitch to Shoaib Akhtar. If your definition of fast bowler is anything above 100kmph but below 120 kmph.. yes iin that case I fully agree.
    My opinion was about Dravid and Dravid alone. The others were used as comparisons. If you don’t want Ganguly on the list – OK.. He is MORE versatile than Dravid.. agreed

  23. I still stand by what I said.

    It was Chappell – Dravid mantra that all the players in the team should be versatile.
    We now have a “versatile pathan” rotting in domestic cricket.

    Answer one question, what versatility does Dravid bring to our ODI team? None.

    So Shoaib is the only fast bowler in the world.
    You seem to have a very convenient memory, you remember things about Ganguly but not about Dravid.
    Last time Ganguly faced Akhtar, was in the Karachi test, when all the top order was back in the dressing room, Ganguly and Yuvraj were the only two facing Shoaib with courage. in both innings he was out to playing shots and not poor defence.

    Again you just want to argue for arguments sake.
    Whether you accept it or not, it does not bother me, the fact remains,
    Dravid is excess baggage in ODIs.
    As long he is in the team, we will only beat the likes of Bermuda.

    Please do not bring regions/Calcutta into this.
    Its pathetic.

  24. Well, you surely are from Calcutta. I can bet my life on it. If someone gets so worked up about harmless ribbing.
    Your opinion or mine doesnt mattter does it. Ganguly is out of the ODI team and Dravid is the captain. THAT IS WHAT MATTERS.
    Maybe we will beat only bermuda in future. but what the heck. Maybe that’s our destiny. Being a little Indian you might have heard of destiny.

    Have fun and take it easy man. Life is too short

  25. My humble contribution to the great Karachi TEST (I thought we were talking about ODI’s all this while. And I can never even think of starting a debate about who’s the better test player. Obviously Ganguly) fightback. And what a fight back it was. Scoring 37 runs is not easy mate. Dravid was opening in that match by the way.

    Taken from cricinfo report (not me). Also getting LBW is always possible when going for a BIG shot. Sorry Sfx can’t help myself -)

    Pakistan romp to 341-run victory
    The Bulletin by Dileep Premachandran in Karachi

    February 1, 2006

    Sourav Ganguly started with a couple of sublimely timed off-drives and with Yuvraj also driving and pulling like a dream, the runs came at a frenetic clip. Asif kept probing away, beating the bat regularly, while Shoaib came back for a fiery second spell where an edge from Yuvraj fell just short of Imran Farhat at second slip. With the match almost certainly lost, both batsmen played with great freedom as Pakistan set attacking fields. Yuvraj took just 45 balls for his half-century, and both he and Ganguly saw off the threat of Danish Kaneria with only the odd alarm.

    Any hope of great escapes and miracles was however extinguished as soon as the players came back after tea, with Razzaq shaping one back onto Ganguly’s pad.

    Sourav Ganguly lbw Razzaq 37 (177 for 5) Trapped on the crease by one that shaped back

  26. Dravid made sure that Ganguly did not get selected for the ODIs in pakistan. The test match was the last opportunity Ganguly had of facing Shoaib.

    Courage of a batsman in facing a fast bowler does not differ whether it be a test or an ODI.

    Dravid deserted his teammates to defend Chappell’s actions. He should be ashamed to call himself a captain.

    Ganguly and Tendulkar are “rested” out of the team because the spineless BCCI chose to keep Dravid as captain and that is because Dravid has lost the credibility of captaining them.

    Answer two questions,
    1. what is the value of a slow slogger like Dravid in an ODI team?
    2. what versatility does Dravid bring to the ODI team?

  27. “Slow slogger”? thats an interesting term.. but if your argument is based on your opinion rather than facts.. Cant argue with subjective opinions mate..
    Ganguly in that case would be a ‘fast bullock cart” would he?

  28. Recap –

    We started agreeing on the fact that Dravid IS NOT a good captain.. but you keep on harping on his captaincy and all conspiracy theories. Is Dravid that powerful to get Ganguly dropped from a team? You give him too much credit.

    Do you want to compare the COURAGE of Ganguly and Dravid. If you do, well, I give up. Getting injured in the Nagpur test against the ozs is an ample testimony

  29. Sfx,

    A comforting word for you.. I am not contributing to this argument (it was about Irfan Pathan initially, which turned into Dravid bashing which in turn went to Dravid v/s Ganguly) any further

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