Irfan, Bharat hope to redeem IPL hopes

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Cricket can be a great leveller, especially the T20 version. Two-time Mushtaq Ali Trophy winner Baroda is led by Irfan Pathan, also heading for the IPL player auction following Chennai Super Kings’ suspension. Pathan did not feature in a single game for CSK in IPL 2015 and awaits the February auction to get an idea of his pulling power as a match-winner.

“Performing well for Baroda in these five matches is crucial for me and the team. We could have done better in the first-class season, and this T20 tournament is a chance to set things right.”

After being ignored for the first half of the Ranji Trophy league stage, Pathan was named captain three days ago by the Baroda selectors. He needs to make the most of the limited time at his disposal.

“I was not considered good enough, though I was fit and available to play. Now that I have been asked to lead at short notice, the accumulated experience will be useful in the matches ahead,” he said.

The highest-wicket taker for Kings XI Punjab over three seasons, the left-hander was picked by Delhi Daredevils and Sunrisers Hyderabad before the passive CSK stint.

Baroda faces Assam in the opening Group C game. “In T20, there are no raw teams or fancied sides. Each ball is like an over; any side can win. Assam has done well despite shortage of experienced players,” said Pathan.

“My goal is to get my players to gel, and create a positive feeling within. Dhoni is the best T20 captain I have played under. The CSK dressing room was a relaxed place. Despite the competition for places, there was respect for one another, whether playing or not.”

Road ahead

Talking about the road ahead for him, the India match-winner said: “IPL is at the back of everyone’s mind, whether you like it or not. Once you deliver for your team in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy, other factors will fall into place.”

The Baroda squad also includes heavyweights like Yusuf Pathan, Munaf Patel and Hardik Pandya. Ambati Rayudu is recovering from surgery and will miss the tournament.

Scheduling the domestic T20 event before the IPL auction is paying off. Not just for Pathan, but even for K Srikar Bharat. The young Andhra ’keeper-batsman is one of 10 players released by Delhi Daredevils ahead of the 2016 season. He is looking forward to passing some valuable insights gained from seniors in the dressing room to his young teammates in the Andhra squad.

Intensity matters

“Intensity matters in T20. Each player is expected to go all-out,” said the 22-year-old. His team Andhra will face Madhya Pradesh in the opening Group C tie at the Reliance Stadium.

Bharat soaked up lessons by observing young achievers like Shreyas Iyer in the Daredevils camp, besides rubbing shoulders with established internationals like all-rounder Jean-Paul Duminy, the Daredevils captain.

“Shreyas’s clarity of thought is striking. He is ready to do whatever is asked of him in a match situation,” said Bharat.

“I remember Duminy telling me that if I ever opened for Daredevils, I would get the first six overs to play my natural game. I knew what my skipper expected from me.”

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