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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 11:26 GMT
India back Pathan's potential
By Arjun Sandhu

Irfan Pathan
First-class cricket
91 wickets, average 31.05
461 runs, highest score 54
One-day cricket
27 wickets, average 30.00
70 runs, highest score 19
There are very few cricketers whose path to international recognition began inside a mosque.

It is, however, true of Indian fast bowler Irfan Pathan, whose love of the game resulted in a scolding for him and younger brother Yousuf.

His father, Mehmood Khan Pathan - a muezzin who calls the faithful to prayer - had to apologise to the mosque committee in Baroda on behalf of his sons.

"Most boys start playing cricket in the backyard of their homes.

"It was no different in our case, just that our home was inside the mosque," said Pathan, the youngest member of the Indian squad in Australia having celebrated his 19th birthday last month.

He hit the headlines by taking 9-16 in an under-19 one-day match against Bangladesh during a four-nation tournament in Pakistan earlier this month.

"One doesn't really think of getting nine wickets in a one-dayer.

"To start with, I was just happy to have achieved the task of getting the Bangladesh team out quickly."

Pathan finished with an 18-wicket haul in the tournament, justifying his billing as the best young pace bowler in the sub-continent, as India clinched the title.

Within two weeks, he had been elevated to the senior squad for Australia, completing a memorable journey for a boy, whose parents hoped he would become an Islamic scholar.

Despite that, his mother, Shamim Bano, never tried to curb his interest in cricket and both brothers - Yousuf is a promising all-rounder in the Ranji Trophy - say it was her encouragement which shaped their careers.

"How many wickets have you got as my present?" she used to ask Pathan when he returned from a match or tour.

Cricket is a rich man's game - but ours was a poor family
Mehmood Khan Pathan

The brothers were also helped by their uncle, Ahmed Mian, who introduced them to Baroda Sports Club coach, Mehndi Skeikh.

Luckily the club was just 15 minutes walk from the mosque, as Pathan's father acknowledges he did not have "money for their bus fare" and struggled to afford sports equipment.

"When Irfan and Yousuf were growing up, I couldn't provide them with what was easily available to other kids," he said.

"I used to shop in the local weekend market for second-hand sports shoes and cheap bats to fulfill the boys' demands."

A monthly salary of 1,200 rupees (16) and income from a small shop selling local-made perfume was all a family of five had to live on, but help from people like uncle Mian helped the boys along.

Pathan eventually won a place in the Baroda under-14 team and had his first "proper" cricket kit presented when he was named in the under-15 squad for a national tournament.

Starting as a middle-order batsman, Pathan began dreaming of "going faster and faster" after some coaches at a training camp were impressed by his bowling.

Irfan Pathan
Pathan enjoyed a good tour to England last summer

"I wasn't extraordinary, but my hard work paid off and shaped me as a pace bowler," says the modest Pathan.

He went on to make a good beginning by claiming hat-tricks at under-15 level in the Asia Cup and World Cup, before proceeding to claim another one during his deadly nine-wicket spell in the under-19 game against Bangladesh.

He was a member of the India A team which toured England last summer, when his victims included South African captain Graeme Smith, who he trapped lbw at Arundel.

"I'm on the verge of my dream to play Tests and one-dayers for India," said Pathan.

That dream could become a reality in the very near future.


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