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In-form Irfan harbours hopes of surprise call-up for Australia tour

In-form Irfan harbours hopes of surprise call-up for Australia tour

KARACHI: Once considered as the surprise weapon of Pakistan’s pace battery, lanky Mohammad Irfan finds himself out of the national side. But the left-arm pacer says that he would love to play against hosts Australia in the upcoming Test and ODI series as he has unfinished business to settle.

The 7ft 1 inch fast-bowler has claimed 15 wickets in three matches for Wapda with two five-wicket hauls in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and is nowhere close to the top performers but he is still hoping against hope of taking on Australia.

He broke down at the business end of the 2015 World Cup and could not take part in the quarter-final loss against hosts Australia and that is something which still haunts him.

“I’ve some unfinished business in Australia as I’ll never forget missing the all important quarter-final against the Kangaroos in World Cup 2015 and it still hurts that I wasn’t out on the field to help Pakistan. The only time I’ve cried in my professional career was for missing that all important encounter,” said Irfan in an exclusive interview with Dawn.

“I badly wanted to play in that last-eight match because there was genuine believe that we could go onto lift the crown as momentum was on our side. I keep asking myself what if I had played, I would have made the difference against the Aussies and this is something I want to settle if selected. I really want to the Aussies on.”

When Mohammad Amir was serving his ban, it was Irfan who had shouldered the responsibility of being the spearhead and at times played despite not being fully fit which led to hip and calf injuries for him in the past.

The expectations of victories saw Irfan and Saeed Ajmal being over-burdened with the task and that ultimately led to injuries and bowling ban respectively.

The 34-year-old, who has played four Tests, 60 One-day Internationals and 20 T20Is, feels that pitches in Australia are best suited to his style while he would love to get a surprise call in the Test squad. “After a match or two in Australia, I felt that those tracks could bring the best out of me because they are perfectly suited to my bowling,” said Irfan.

“It would be nice to get a call-up in Test squad because I feel I can provide that cutting edge on the tough tour. I miss playing Test cricket because it’s the ultimate battle. It would be great to resume my career in the longest format. I’m keeping myself ready for the challenge if selectors consider me,” he added.

“I’ve bowled some decent spells in the recent Quaid-e-Azam Trophy while have been out there on the field throughout. So all I can say is that I won’t disappoint the selectors. I’ve already set my sights on prized scalps of David Warner and Steve Smith because both are considered as backbone of Australian batting, but all that depends on whether I’m called up or not.”

Asked why he broke down in England after just one ODI and was sent back home, the giant pacer replied it was just unfortunate that he suffered cramps but there was no serious injury or fitness concerns at the time. “It was unfortunate that I developed some cramps in England but that is something anyone can go through after a long and tiring flight,” explained Irfan.

“ It wasn’t like that I was down with an injury. It was just the cramps due to jet lag as I had to play straightaway after reaching there. Physically I’m feeling stronger than ever now because I’ve got a good break in between from international cricket while I’ve also worked hard to improve the fitness level while playing domestic cricket,” said Irfan, who last played a Test in 2013 against South Africa in Dubai.

The fast-bowler also praised the selection committee led by Inzamamul Haq for ending the communication gap with the injured or discarded players, something which was not properly addressed in Pakistan cricket over the years.

“This committee led by Inzi bhai atleast remains in touch with injured and discarded players and that communication gives you confidence and belief that you remain part of the plans and what you need to do to earn your place back in the national side,” concluded Irfan.

Published in Dawn November 22nd, 2016

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