Indian fast bowler, Irfan Pathan, who has played 29 Tests, 120 ODIs and 24 T20 Internationals for India between 2003 and 2012 has been appointed mentor cum player for Jammu and Kashmir Cricket team by J&K Cricket Association.
The 33-year-old Pathan who has skippered Baroda cricket team for past two domestic seasons in Ranji Trophy will now play for J&K.
Over past two months, Irfan has been conducting talent hunt across JK and provided training to cricketers.
He along with JKCA selectors, coaches and Parvez Rasool conducted screening camps cum trial matches for senior and U-23 players at Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket Stadium Sonwar, Srinagar from which 35 probables were shortlisted for the upcoming season of Vijay Hazare Trophy.
In an interview with Rising Kashmir Sports Correspondent Syed Rukaya, Irfan talks about his training plans for the development of cricket.
Being associated with JKCA from last couple of months, where does association and cricket stand in the state?
JK players lack experience. JKCA has to be streamlined which would eventually help streamline local cricket. Local cricketers at district level lack mentoring, camps other opportunities.
I spent maximum time with the boys so as to share my experience with them and guide them. We will try to rectify the mistakes. We have initiated the process which will bear fruits in near future. It will take some time to bring visible change as nothing can be achieved overnight.
What opportunities JK players will avail under your tutelage?
Opportunities will be provided to cricketers but at proper time when they are prepared enough to play at higher level.
Basically, the district level players play cricket on mats. There may be talent in districts but the cricketers lack experience. If they are provided an opportunity to play a top level cricket without preparing them, their journey will not progress. It is important for them to prepare and gain experience.
We at JKCA have devised a plan for district level players. We will organize a separate camps for them in which they will be trained and coached on professional lines. We will also hold camps to improve their fitness. We don’t want them to have short span of career at highest level.
What are the plans for the top performers of the tournament of this tourney?
I have also planned something for those players who will emerge as either highest wicket takers or highest run scorers. I’ve submitted the plan to Bukhari sahib (CEO JKCA, Ashiq Hussain Bukhari).
The top performers will be rewarded as per their talent. They have to go through a process and it will not be rational to induct them directly into the squad.
The main objective is that players should represent JKCA and for that we have to first prepare these players.
Some of the players from district level tournaments have been selected for trial matches. Will they get an opportunity to play Vajay Hazare or Ranji Trophy?
We inducted three new faces from district level tournaments that I felt that they should be given chance. We provided them an opportunity in trial matches and among them one boy performed really well. He has a potential and Insha Allah we will see how we can prepare him for higher level cricket.
It is not important that players are inducted in Vijay Hazare and Ranji Trophy directly. They can represent the state at junior level or in other age groups but the most important thing is their consistent performance. They will definitely be given opportunity to represent state.
In past, there have been allegations that players were selected for national level tournaments on the basis of affiliations and not their performances.
In order to earn place in the team, the player will have to participate in district matches and subsequently in trial matches. Then on the basis of their performance, they will be rewarded.
To select probables for the upcoming Vijay Hazare and Ranji Trophy from the ongoing trial matches, I along with Parvez Rasool and other coaches are keenly watching their performances which include their consistency, attitude and fitness.
We’re holding trial matches in a proper and serious manner. We have installed cameras in the stadium and the computer analysts and scorers are stationed to monitor their game. Almost 90 players are playing in the ongoing trial matches out of which we have to select nearly 25-30 top performers for the next camp. We want to start that camp early so that we can work out with 25-30 selected players for the upcoming season.
Previously, players were being selected at last moment that too without going through any preparation. Players should be provided with an opportunity to go through proper selection process.
Many players allege nepotism and favoritism in some of the district level matches. How will you look into their grievances?
If umpiring was wrong then they need to improve. I’m here as a mentor and I’ve to concentrate on players, their techniques and to prepare them mentally. I can’t be omnipresent.
If there are genuine allegations, they should report their concerns with the administration and it can be rectified.
The mindset of players should be very clear. They should perform first then earn an opportunity.
Even the senior cricketers here complain that they are not selected for upper level cricket.
If they would grab 40 odd wickets during the whole season or score pile of runs then who will not induct them in a team after such performance.
When Parvez Rasool performed consistently whole year while representing his state he was inducted in the Indian team and later when he performed there he was again picked up for IPL. Other players who are desirous to play at higher levels need to perform like that.
To get selected for Duleep trophy or north zone, one should score 700-800 runs.
If they think they will be selected even after scoring odd 20 runs then it’s not possible.
Even some cricketers complain that undeserving players were inducted in various teams for trial matches?
If we start listening to every single person’s complaints then no work will be done. The players who won’t get selected in playing 11 or 15 member squad will obviously complain. If players get an opportunity, they should latch on to that and perform. They should give their best and not to complain.
This year senior camp will start from September not in October as it used to be. After the end of tournament, the camp will begin.
Players need to change mindset and the need is to show performance where it matters.
The cricketers will get selected as per their age group for three formats which include junior, U-23 and senior category, they will be prepared accordingly.
Some players have crossed 25 years of age. Will they be provided opportunity in senior team?
If they have potential and also good fitness level they can be given chance. A team should at least have 80 to 90% top fielders.
In fielding, J&K team is lagging. They have either less practice or lack fitness. If a player has capability to score runs but can't field well becomes liability. If he scores 50 runs but drops two catches and misses a run out then he is again liability for the team. So if you have age with fitness then there is no problem. If the preparation was not up to the standards prerequisite at senior level, the players will be asked to practice more and participate in matches for one or two more years.