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Gujarat Lions have given a lifeline to the struggling career of Irfan Pathan and team Chief Executive Arvinder Singh said he has high hopes on the 'veteran' all-rounder to deliver the goods in the IPL.
League stage toppers in their debut season last year, Gujarat Lions found their team balance go wrong this time after injury pull-out to West Indies all-rounder Dwyane Bravo and they made a surprise call by bringing in Irfan.
“Irfan is a quality all-rounder perfectly fitting into our scheme of things. He's not only popular but brings a lot to the table both in batting and bowling,” Singh told PTI in an interview on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Baroda all-rounder has donned jerseys for Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rising Pune Supergiant as Gujarat Lions became his sixth IPL franchise.
“You can call him a veteran as he has played for a number of years. He's been there, done that. He's looking fully fit and all geared up. That shows his commitment, I'm sure he will deliver for us,” he said about Pathan who has 80 wickets from 102 IPL games, apart from 1137 runs at a strike-rate of 120.57.
Irfan, who has a combined tally of more than 150 international caps for India in the three formats, failed last season in the IPL, scoring 11 runs in three innings and going wicketless from eight overs. He went unsold at the February auction at a base price of Rs 50 lakh.
“Many also had written Ashish Nehra but see what he has done after the comeback. He's much older to Irfan but look at his performance, not only for his franchise but to the Indian cricket team,” Singh said.
Lions have not fared well so far this season but Singh said they were a case study in itself having topped the league in their inaugural season last year.
“Last year it was setting up a new franchise from scratch within two and half months. It certainly was a challenge. But looking at what we achieved it's a case study in itself. What more could you ask for from a brand new franchisee after finishing at top in a league where other teams had eight years' of experience behind them,” the Lions CEO said.
“We started off from zero but at the end of last IPL we were more than a million fans. At halfway stage this time, we have added another half a million. I don't think that has ever happened. Something must be right. That itself is a measure of how well the team has been received. The secret is very simple — it's about fan engagement.”
Singh also backed skipper Suresh Raina and hoped that his side would turn it around in the second phase this season.
“Raina is doing a fantastic job as captain. You have seen him leading from the front. It's just that in our bowling we struggled. That is hurting us a little bit so far. We are unlucky with Bravo declared unfit. Obviously these are guys who did very well for us last year,” he said.