26 July, 2014 / Ramazan 27, 1435

Irfan aiming to impress against number one Test side

Published Jan 18, 2013 02:08pm

mohammad irfan, fast bowling, pakistan cricket

KARACHI: A towering man of seven feet one inch, fast-rising Pakistan paceman Mohammad Irfan often struggles to find bowling shoes that fit and a comfortable bed.

But on the cricket pitch, the 30-year-old former factory worker is more than comfortable with a new ball in his hands, cleverly exploiting his height to unsettle some of the best batsmen in the world with bounce, pace and variation.

Pakistan tagged Irfan a “surprise package” on their December-January tour of India and despite taking just three wickets, he plagued the opposition's much-vaunted batting.

“We jokingly call him the short man,” Pakistan Twenty20 captain Mohammad Hafeez told AFP.

“We knew he would be a surprise package and with his determination and hard work I hope that he can go a long way in international cricket.”

It is only now that officials accept him to be 7'1''. In the past, his height has been purportedly measured at 6'8” and 6'10”.

“My height was measured at the US embassy when I applied for visa in 2010,” Irfan told AFP, boasting of being the tallest ever international cricketer, surpassing West Indian Joel Garner and Australian Bruce Reid who stood at 6'8”.

He also claims to be the tallest known cricketer, beating English county players Anthony Allom, Paul Dunkels and Will Jefferson, all measured at 6'10”.

But for Irfan, height hasn't always been an advantage.

He was born a farmer's son in the small village of Gaggu Mandi in the central Punjab province, where he found his height hard to cope with, even as one of five brothers all over six feet tall.

“My height started to increase when I was in class eight,” Irfan remembers.

“I couldn't sit on the school bus properly, my uniform stopped fitting after a few days and people started to make fun of my height.”

His father, himself six feet nine inches, advised him to be patient.

“My schoolmates used to mock me saying, why am I in class eight when I am so tall. I used to come in my friends' car with a special seat.

“I would join two beds to sleep properly and when I wanted to play cricket I couldn't find proper shoes,” said Irfan who now gets shoes in a British size 15 from a friend.

Growing up, his role model was fellow villager Mohammad Zahid, who took eleven wickets in his debut Test in 1996 before a back problem cut short his career.

But he was discouraged by a lack of opportunity and took a job in a nearby pipe factory in 2000.

“Those were very difficult days for me,” remembers Irfan. “I wanted to play cricket but was forced to work for 300 rupees ($3) a week and the future was not looking good.”

But suddenly lady luck smiled at Irfan.

Former first-class cricketer Nadeem Iqbal spotted him in a club match and sent him to Pakistan's national cricket academy to be coached by former paceman Aaqib Javed and former opener Aamir Sohail.

Irfan made the most of it.

In 2009, he was picked up by the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) team, set up by the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb A.Q Khan, where Irfan turned into an explosive bowler, taking nine wickets in only his second match.

“Irfan was unique,” said Rashid Iqbal, manager of the KRL.

“He has worked very hard to come this far and the most remarkable thing about him is that despite his height he has kept his fitness through extra work-outs.”

The KRL stint saw Irfan picked for Pakistan's one-day series in England in 2010 but two wicketless matches seemed to end his career before it even started.

“I did not get discouraged and kept up the hard work,” said Irfan, who impressed coach Dav Whatmore enough during the national Twenty20 tournament in Lahore last month to be picked to stage a comeback in India.

Leaving Indian batsmen shaken, Irfan now bowls against the world's number one Test team South Africa next month, aiming to prove that he is not all about height.

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Comments (20) (Closed)


Nadeem Mirza
Jan 20, 2013 02:06pm
Irfan is a rare talent and good find. He has to be used very carefully by coach and captain. With unusual body structure it will be difficult for him to last rigourous five days of test cricket. He has to work exra hard on his fitness. On the other hand, in the shorter format he will be fine and hanful for next couple of years. Again, key is avoid injurys and keep fit. Good Luck to him and Pakistan!
tajamal hassan
Jan 19, 2013 11:09pm
Let us not jump the gun and be optimistic,why Misbah would like to hurt him he is not playing in IPL,he could be our asset in future.
Haroon
Jan 19, 2013 05:40am
it would be a real test of SA batsmen to face banana swing of Junaid and bounce and variations of Irfan. well result is crystal clear, our bowlers will show real fight only to see our batsmen surrendering.
Shahid
Jan 19, 2013 05:42am
My prayers for this new talent. But saga of Irfan also points to the waste which play havoc with talent of Pakistani nation . We need to have proper cricket academies and domestic circuit to pick and groom budding fast bowlers like Irfan.
Fahad
Jan 20, 2013 10:50am
And it will be a real test for our batsmen to face banana swing of Philander, and the variations of Steyn and Morkel. May the team with the best batsmen win and hopefully it's the team with Amla, Smith, Kallis, and De Villiers.
Riaz
Jan 19, 2013 04:58pm
In a society based on corrupt vultures, does merit and talent have have place?
ajazkhan63@rediffmail.com
Jan 20, 2013 09:50am
our all wishes and due regards are with him. he belongs from a poor family but has worked hard and Inshaallah, if Allah willing will get soon the very best fruitful result and will be able to serve the country for long period. May Allah give him 100% success. Aameen Suma Aameen.
Dilawer
Jan 19, 2013 03:17pm
Irfan will be wasted by his caption. They will make sure that he has some injury by making him bowl too much. It happened before and it will happen again. Just mark my words.
Rana Umer
Jan 20, 2013 10:02am
Go Irfan Go make us proud,keep your ball up to the throat of the opposition like you did in india to Gautam Gambir.......Pakistani's Love you ,you hard days has gone & your hard work surely paying you OFF! Have a great career ahead & don't forget age is just a figure just keep your spirit's up! :)
Mustafa
Jan 18, 2013 07:10pm
Irfan! go ahead and do your best. Pakistan will be praying for you.
Karachi Wala
Jan 18, 2013 07:11pm
For a fast bowler Irfan is a late comer. People with unusual heights end up with many and different physical and social problems (social problems he has described). With this height, one has to be genetically very sound (like NBA players) to sustain on going rigors in sporting field. I am sure he is getting dozens of advices from everybody and from all corners. Hopefully, he will listens and follows only those who are experts. If he can avoid a major fitness problem and just concentrate on bowling at good spots with line and length, he has a good enough action to trouble the best. For this, he will have to forget about being a tear away or a showman like Shoib Akhtar. If he models himself after Glenn MGrath and PCB chooses his participation in different formats wisely, it will not only benefit Pakistan team for longer duration but most likely he will have a healthy showing in the wickets and financial columns when he retires.
Muba Khan
Jan 18, 2013 07:51pm
Way to go Fani!
Fuad
Jan 18, 2013 04:59pm
Go Irfan Go, with dedication and hard work you will prove to be a handfull for any batting side. Good luck mate!
Rizwan
Jan 19, 2013 01:18am
a waste of time and wrong priorities being chased by PCB as usual. The surprise package turned out to be a total dud. Problem with his bowling is that he doesn't have variety and doesn't know how to move ball around. Once the batsman has got hold of his line, he is tossed around the pitch in all direction. Other thing is his age - at 30 he is way past his prime and can only last a few more years and those few more years will be his dwindling performance instead of blossoming into a lethal bowler.
jibran
Jan 18, 2013 06:10pm
Best of luck to Irfan. Great to see someone from humble beginnings making big and realizing his talent. Though, he is 30 I hope he plays for a long time for Pakistan. Pakistan team management should try very hard to manage his workload. Pay him well so no T20 leagues pick him and make him injury prone.
sportswatch
Jan 20, 2013 07:13am
Dear dilawer yu are totally wrong irfan is fit..and inshallah he will a part of pakistan team.......if you dont know about something then you are not allowed to pass the comments...first try to confrom then say...otherwise not
Nadeem
Jan 18, 2013 05:57pm
Good luck Irfan. Keep looking forwrad never look back. Also get some tips from Waseen Akram.
Hakim
Jan 18, 2013 08:01pm
Please stay away from bad company and don't try to make quick money.
Ali
Jan 18, 2013 03:54pm
Irfan- all the best. Please keep your cool and stay calm. Hard work will pay off. Great example by Pakistan selection committee.
imran
Jan 19, 2013 02:16am
Live long and prosper and make Pakistan proud. Godspeed to you.