All-rounder Irfan Pathan on Saturday announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, ending an injury-ridden career that prevented him from realising his true potential.
The 35-year-old's retirement was on expected lines, considering he last played a competitive game in February 2019 during the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy for Jammu and Kashmir. Before turning up for Jammu and Kashmir as a player cum mentor in 2018, Pathan played all his domestic cricket for Baroda.
Though he remains a non-playing mentor to the Jammu and Kashmir outfit, Irfan had not been playing over the past 12 months and did not even put himself in the IPL auction pool last month.
"Today, I am saying goodbye to cricket, about which I thought for day and night. I last represented India in 2012 and after that I tried hard. Today in 2020, a thing comes up on social media 'make a comeback', so I want to thank the fans, who never left me alone. It's a time to start the next journey," Irfan said at a Star Sports show.
The left-arm seamer's bowling was like a breath of fresh air when he made his India debut against Australia at the Adelaide Oval in 2003. He was all of 19 back then.
He never had express pace but his natural ability to swing the ball into the right-handers got him instant success, also drawing comparisons with the great Kapil Dev. It seemed India had found the all-rounder they were looking for since Kapil left the scene.
Talking about his favourite moments, Irfan said getting the blue India cap easily sits on the top. "There were many moments when I look back. Definitely getting (Mathew) Hayden as my first wicket is there. But when I got the cap, that was a special moment. It is close to my heart because you do everything for the cap.
"No one knows how your career will shape up, but going to play for the country first time, getting the cap from a senior player or the captain, that was special moment for me," he said.
With his elder brother Yusuf, he made a rare sibling pair to represent India.
Irfan, who last played for India in October 2012, featured in 29 Tests (1105 runs and 100 wickets), 120 ODIs (1544 runs and 173 wickets) and 24 T20 Internationals (172 runs and 28 wickets).
In the 2003-04 Test series in Australia, he bowled a sensational spell of reverse swing in Sydney, getting rid of two key players -- Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist. The game, however, ended in a draw. He was also part of the victorious Indian team at the 2007 World Twenty20 and was the man-of-the-match in the final against Pakistan.
One of his best performances came on the tour of Pakistan in 2006 when Irfan became the second Indian after Harbhajan Singh to take a Test hat-trick, removing Salman Butt, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yusuf in the first over of the match held in Karachi.
"It was a memorable event but personally I don't speak about that hat-trick because we lost the match," he said.
In 2008, he played a big role in India winning a Test match against Australia on a tough Perth wicket, which offered steep bounce.
Injuries and lack of form troubled him thereafter and his ability to swing the ball deteriorated. His downfall coincided with Greg Chappell's stint as the India head coach.
Pathan has been commentating on the game over the past 24 months and it would be very much part of his future plans.
His India teammates were quick to congratulate him on social media. "Wish you great 2nd inn my brother @IrfanPathan. What a champion bowler and a fighter on the field... god bless you brother... lots of love," tweeted Harbhajan.
Former India batsman VVS Laxman wrote: "Was such a joy to see #IrfanPathan evolve from a aspiring 17yr old cricketer when I first saw him into a mature International Cricketer. You can be very proud of what u have achieved not only as a cricketer but also in mentoring young cricketers from J&K. A very happy 2nd innings.