Former India pacer Irfan Pathan opened up about an incident from the past when he and wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni combined to sledge Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar.
It was the Faisalabad Test of India’s tour to Pakistan in 2006, and Pathan had joined Dhoni, playing just his fifth Test, in the middle after Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket. At that moment, India were reeling at 281-5, still 307 runs behind Pakistan’s first-innings total of 588, and desperately needed a partnership to make a comeback in the game.
But, one of the biggest challenges for both Irfan and Dhoni was Akhtar, who was bowling at the speed of over 150kph consistently.
“When I was coming out to bat, Akhtar was bowling at a rapid pace of 150-160 kph,” Pathan told Sports Tak. “I went down and joined Dhoni and asked how’s the pitch is behaving, he responded by saying, ‘nothing much, you just bat’.
“I faced Akhtar’s first ball, and it was a bouncer… couldn’t even see the ball. Somehow we tried to negate his spell. We tried building our partnership, and after some time, Akhtar again came for a new spell.
“Akhtar was sledging. I told Dhoni, ‘I will sledge Akhtar, and you just laugh at him’. Dhoni agreed to it. Akhtar continued sledging us, and the ball started to reverse.
“That was the time, I sledged Akhtar saying, ‘Will you be able to bowl with the same intensity in the next spell?’. Akhtar responded angrily, saying, ‘you are talking too much, I will remove you from here’. So I said, ‘You won’t be able to do it, I am also a real Pathan, you just do your bowling, don’t talk’.
“The next ball was a bouncer, I was ready for it. I left it. Then he started bowling short balls. I went to tap gloves with Dhoni while Akhtar was there, and I said ‘Paaji, the pitch is damp, you need to bowl a little more shorter’. He kept getting angry, and we were able to play out that spell. After Akhtar’s spell, the batting became easier for us, and we were able to save the Test match, and the match ended in a draw,” Pathan added.
Dhoni and Pathan went on to add a 210-run for the sixth wicket and rescued India. Dhoni scored his maiden Test century and ended up scoring 148, while Pathan supported him ably with his 90-run knock as India took a slim lead in the first innings. The game ended in a draw.