Irfan Khan Pathan was considered by many, with reason, as the most talented swing and seam bowler to emerge from India since Kapil Dev. Within a couple of years in international cricket, he was thought of as a possible successor for Kapil in the allround department. When he made his Test debut in Australia in 2003-04, it was with the energy of a 19-year-old, but a composed nous that was striking even for one who had been specifically readied for the purpose via the A-team and age-group channels. His instinct is not merely what to bowl to who and when, but also to keep learning new tricks. He played a big part in India's one-day and the Test series wins on their revival tour of Pakistan.
His batting soon took off and he was regularly pushed up the order - his first stint at No.3 resulted in a spectacular 83 against Sri Lanka at Nagpur - and he often bailed India out of strife in the Test arena as well. His bowling form, though, nosedived in 2006, and he struggled to make it to both the Test and ODI teams when the year ended, becoming the first Indian player to be sent back from a tour (South Africa) to concentrate on domestic cricket. He did make it to the World Cup squad but didn't figure in a single game during India's disappointing campaign, after which he was dropped from both the Test and one-day sides.
Recalled to the side for the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa in September 2007, Pathan did not disappoint, snapping up 10 wickets at 14.90. His crucial spell of 3 for 16 in the final against Pakistan earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.
Pathan returned to the ODI side for the home series against Australia and Pakistan, and showed he had rediscovered his bowling rhythm, based on which he was handed a recall in the third Test against Pakistan in Bangalore. His celebrated his comeback to the Test team after 19 months by making his first Test hundred. Pathan was subsequently picked for the Test series in Australia, but was benched for the first two matches. He was brought in for the Perth Test, where he played a crucial part in India's famous win - with scores of 28 and 46 and five wickets to claim the Man-of-the-Match award.