latest from the pace factory

Javed was over the moon. He informed Irfan that he wasn't going anywhere and immediately arranged for his accommodation nearby. Over the next two months, Javed roped in the NCA trainer, Gul Ahmedi, and the duo began extensive work on their newest recruit's fitness. His ginormous height meant that Irfan's knees were forever under intense stress while bowling. A special fitness regimen was drawn out, and Javed was more than happy to chip in with financial support for his underprivileged ward.

With size-15 shoes not readily accessible in this part of Pakistan, the former swing king had to arrange for them through his contacts in England. He wasn't complaining though. He had recognized the inherent talent that Irfan possessed and was confident that if nurtured, the amiable colossus could go onto be a force in first-class cricket, if not at the biggest stage of them all"

"Soon Irfan began to grow as a bowler and a person. From being socially inept, he began opening up more but remained a soft-spoken giant," recalls Mudassar Nazar, who was director at the NCA back then.

Meteoric rise

Just over 12 months after his fateful meeting with Javed in Lahore, the former plumber was making his first-class debut for Khan Research Laboratories. He shone with a seven-wicket haul in his second match. News of Irfan's dramatic rise soon began resonating around Pakistan and even crossed across the border. By April 2010, he had been offered a contract by the Kolkata Knight Riders for a stint in the glamorous world of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Just when his life seemed poised for a 'giant' leap, his fortunes began to nosedive all of a sudden.

As he awaited a no-objection certificate from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to play in the IPL, Irfan who earlier had come close to national selection on a few occasions already was called up for the ODI series in England. A rude awakening awaited him there. Irfan conceded 15 runs in his very first ODI over, hit for three fours by Andrew Strauss. He never did look the part at Chester-le-Street. Irfan played the second ODI as well and was hit for 40 runs in his seven overs.

... contd.

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