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Where Is He Now?

From reading the reports on Australia’s aborted decimation of India in the DLF Cup, it looks as if Mitchell Johnson is the new Lillee/McGrath/Lee/Thompson – take your pick.

I was not all that impressed with him in the first few matches I watched him play. He was nippy, but did not really show enough to captivate me. After his last performance, however, it is blatantly obvious that the kid has some semblance of talent.

The following excerpt about Johnson, from Dileep Premachandran’s review on Cricinfo, I found to be extremely interesting:

“Sachin Tendulkar didn't move his feet and a delivery slanting away at 87.3mph did the rest. The best, though, was saved for last, as an absolute peach that darted away from Yuvraj Singh's bat at 87.8 mph and caught the edge on its way to Phil Jaques at slip.”

Now, substitute “Sachin Tendulkar” with “Adam Gilchrist” and “Yuvraj Singh” with “Mathew Hayden” and hark back to India’s last trip down-under in 2003/04. Do you find yourself pondering with dismay at what became of a then 19 year old Indian leftie?

Irfan Pathan had the works - pace, movement and control. He was young and passionate about the game and his country. That yorker to Gilchrist at a crucial time in the Sydney Test and getting under Hayden’s skin and taking him out in one of the proceeding ODIs will forever be etched in my memory. At the time we replayed the wickets endlessly in our minds and wondered out loud if the messiah had finally landed.

Pathan and Laxmipathy Balaji were destined to lead the Indian attack for at least a decade to come. Brief encounters with Wasim Akram and Imran Khan seemed to do them the world of good. Then one got injured and the other lost his way. I fall short of attributing the demise in his bowling form, to him trying to become an all-rounder. Although I do believe it to be a small component of the problem, by no means is it the primary cause for my vexation.

IMHO, the only answer is to return him to domestic cricket and assist him in rediscovering what he liked about fast bowling. Without a doubt, I can guarantee you it will centre around the word “fast”. Every budding fast bowler wants to bowl fast. Pathan had the gift of being able to do so. His natural action also allowed him to move the ball. What more could you ask for? Why would you want to change that?

I firmly believe it is the over-engineering of his action that is culprit behind his current state. Let’s get back to basics here fellas. Let’s stop trying to produce perfect machines at the expense of naturally talented destroyers, requiring only occasional and minor adjustments. Give him a real break. Give him the time to rediscover himself and his love for our great game.

Update: In what can only be considered a positive move, Jeff "Thomo" Thompson was spotted lending a helping hand to our much-loved Irfan Pathan. Lets hope and pray that this results in long-term positive effect.

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