Exclusive Interview: Mohammad Irfan Part 2
by Abdul Habib
This is part 2 of the Mohammad Irfan interview, part 1 can be found at the link below...
PP Exclusive: The Mohammad Irfan Interview Part 1
In part 2 Mohammad Irfan talks about his bowling, his batting, the NCA and the Habib Bank offer! I'd like to extend a huge thanks yet again to Saboor Ahmad who got us these great photos from the NCA. Here's Saboor with Irfan...
Training at the NCA has given Irfan the chance to mingle with lots of Pakistani cricketers which will help him gain confidence in dealing with famous faces! He's also using it as a chance to ask for tips and avice, below is a photo of Irfan with Wahab Riaz
Anyway here's part 2 of the interview, hope you enjoy it...
PakPassion.Net: Lots of non-First Class Pakistani cricketers struggle to make the transition to First Class because of the hard ball. Are you mainly a tape ball or hard ball bowler?
Mohammad Irfan: I used to play with the tape ball a lot but I changed over to the hard ball quite early on. I've been using the hard ball since I started playing for Gaggu Club so I'm used to it.
PakPassion.Net: Tell us about your coaches at the NCA.
Mohammad Irfan: Apart from Aaqib there's three main guys. Sajid Gill who's really good, Mohtashim Rashid who helps me with my bowling and fielding and checks to see where I'm landing the ball or how I'm releasing it. Then there's Saboor Ahmad who is my fitness coach and is working hard on getting my strength up, he helps me with my gym work and my exercises.
PakPassion.Net: Gym work is very good for someone with your body shape but fast bowlers benefit a lot from running and swimming too.
Mohammad Irfan: Running is part of my schedule alongside gym work, I follow the schedule they've given me. I'm really lucky to have access to the top class facilities at the NCA, it's made a huge difference to my fitness already.
PakPassion.Net: Go easy on the weights we don't need another bodybuilder, we just need a fast bowler.
Mohammad Irfan: I've been told not to lift heavy weights, they don't want me packing on lots of muscle they just to increase my strength and stamina.
PakPassion.Net: Moving on to your bowling. What would you say is your main strength? Swing, seam movement or line and length?
Mohammad Irfan: My line and length is my real strength, I'm very good at that. I can also get swing and movement but I'm working on getting it consistently and on demand. I'm a left handed bowler and I get natural away swing from the right handed batsman. I can also bowl inswing and my control over it is improving with the coaching that I'm getting. My pace isn't as good as it could be but I'm working very hard to fix that problem too.
PakPassion.Net: At what height does your stock ball reach the batsman?
Mohammad Irfan: When I hit a good length the ball reaches the batsman between his chest and his chin, deliveries at that height have to be played. Batsmen cant leave deliveries coming through in that area, they either have to play the ball or get out of the way.
PakPassion.Net: What about hitting the stumps? Is it difficult for you to keep the ball low enough for it to reach the batsman in line with the stumps?
Mohammad Irfan: Line and length is my strength, if you want me to hit the stumps I can do it 6 times out 6.
PakPassion.Net: That's what I like to hear, the ball crashing into the stumps! Your coaches have told me the same thing, they say that your line and length is your biggest strength. Great line and length is the foundation of good bowling. Pace, swing or seam movement is useless if you're unable to put the ball in the right channels. 100mph swinging yorkers down legside or super fast bouncers over the keeper aren't going to get you many wickets. It's much easier to learn how to control everything else when your line and length is good to start with.
Mohammad Irfan: Yes that's exactly what my coaches tell me.
PakPassion.Net: Yorker or bouncer? What's your best delivery?
Mohammad Irfan: Due to my height bowling a yorker is very difficult but bouncers come naturally to me. I'm working really hard on my yorker but I have a very good bouncer.
PakPassion.Net: I thought your stock ball would be a bouncer.
Mohammad Irfan: (laughs) Yes, you're right.
PakPassion.Net: You really need to learn how to bowl yorkers on demand because if you can do that then you'll be a very, very dangerous bowler. Just imagine a well-aimed yorker coming down at a batsman over 22 yards and from 9 feet in the air. Waqar Younis was known as the toe crusher but you'd be known as the leg crusher!!
Mohammad Irfan: (laughs) I'm working hard on perfecting it, it's something I really want to be able to have full control over.
PakPassion.Net: I doubt there's a sightscreen in the world that would cover your bowling arm, you will always be bowling to batsmen from a backdrop of the crowd.
Mohammad Irfan: I've yetto come across a sightscreen large enough, often I get batsmen coming to me after a game saying they were out before they could work out where the ball was. I guess it could be seen as an advantage but it's upto the people in charge to make bigger sightscreens.
PakPassion.Net: Would you describe yourself as an aggressive player?
Mohammad Irfan: I'm a very attacking bowler and I'm not averse to having a few words with the batsman either. Sometimes you have to raise the batsman's temperature a little bit so he starts taking unnecessary risks!
PakPassion.Net: If your opening partner is taking a real beating at the hands of the opposition batsmen what advice would you give him?
Mohammad Irfan: I'd tell him to concentrate on his line and length because when you're getting attacked that's the first thing you forget about and it allows the batsman to get on top of you. I'd tell him to not worry about getting hit and to just keep bowling in good areas. I'd keep the pressure up on the other side and together we'd bring the situation under control. It's the responsibility of the bowler who's in good form to take some wickets because taking wickets puts the pressure back on the other team.
PakPassion.Net: If u get hit for 5 sixes off your first 5 balls, what will you bowl for your 6th delivery?
Mohammad Irfan: It's never happened and it never will but if somehow it does then I'd go for a slower ball. When batsmen are hitting the ball like that they expect the bowler to try and bowl as fast as he can, so I'd catch them out with a well directed slower delivery.
PakPassion.Net: What's your slower delivery like?
Mohammad Irfan: It's an off spin delivery and it's very good. I rarely use it which makes it even more effective.
PakPassion.Net: Your coaches say that you're very raw and still have a long way to go, how do you plan to change their minds?
Mohammad Irfan: They've only seen me bowling in the nets and not in a live game yet. I'm working hard on the weaknesses that they've identified and with their help I'm sure that I can reach the level that they're trying to get me to. Hopefully within a few months they'll be telling you something different.
PakPassion.Net: What's your fielding like?
Mohammad Irfan: When I first began playing I used to field at point but these days they mainly use me at third man, fine leg or on the boundary due to my height.
PakPassion.Net: I can see why, it'd be hard to get a sixer past you!!
Mohammad Irfan: (laughs)
PakPassion.Net: What about low catches, they must be difficult due to your height?
Mohammad Irfan: Getting down quickly can be difficult but I manage it well, I just relax my muscles and go for the ball. It's worked so far.
PakPassion.Net: Do you have a special bat?
Mohammad Irfan: No. I use a standard bat but I'm hoping to get a bigger one because it's difficult to play low shots or get down with the standard sized bat.
PakPassion.Net: What's your batting like.
Mohammad Irfan: It's very good.
PakPassion.Net: That's what all fast bowlers think!
Mohammad Irfan: (laughs) That's true, I'm a left handed bowler but I bat right handed.
PakPassion.Net: Interesting. What hand do you write and eat with?
Mohammad Irfan: My right hand. I've always batted with my right hand and bowled with left hand. The only thing I'm left handed in is bowling, everything else I do right handed.
PakPassion.Net: So you're ambidextrous! What sort of batsman are you? Technically correct or needlessly aggresive?
Mohammad Irfan: (laughs) Well I don't really have a great technique but I'm very good at hitting the ball, if the team needs some quick runs at the end then I'm your man. I've done it many times in the past.
PakPassion.Net: What's your highest score?
Mohammad Irfan: I was on a tour to Quetta with Gaggu Cricket Club when I scored 80 runs in a club match including 7 or 8 sixes, that's my highest score to date. In the rest of the matches I only scored in the single digits which was disappointing.
PakPassion.Net: Do you like hitting the ball in the air or along the ground and what's the biggest six you've hit?
Mohammad Irfan: Well due to my height and long reach it's easier to hit the ball in the air. If I connect properly then it normally goes out of the stadium. The biggest hit that I can remember was one of the ones that I hit in Quetta, it went out of the stadium, it was huge!
PakPassion.Net: How have you found the NCA so far.
Mohammad Irfan: It's amazing. Aaqib bhai has helped me a lot and all the coaches here are very helpful and friendly. All the international players come here regularly and they usually come over and talk to me because of my height. I try to get tips off them about how to improve my game. I met Aamir Sohail the other day and he asked me if I was having any problems at the NCA. He was very nice and helpful.
PakPassion.Net: Aaqib was at the NCA recently, did you speak to him about the offer to play first class cricket with Habib Bank?
Mohammad Irfan: Yes I did. He said he'd spoken to them and told them that I wasn't ready yet. He said he'd given them first refusal on my first class contract for when I'm ready to play.
PakPassion.Net: That's certainly exciting news, how did the Habib Bank offer come about?
Mohammad Irfan: Well lot's of international players visit the NCA all the time and recently we've had Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar, Imran Nazir, Humayun Farhat and many others visiting. When Imran Farhat saw me he came over and asked me what I eat to get so tall and we had a good chat. He plays for Habib Bank and wanted me to agree to play for them. He said they'd give me a job and I'd get to play first class cricket too. I discussed the offer with Saboor bhai and in the end we told Imran that I was undergoing training for several months and that he'd have to speak to Aaqib bhai about it. Aaqib has said that I will play for Habib Bank when I'm ready to play first class cricket.
PakPassion.Net: You previously mentioned that Mohammad Asif is in the same training group as you. He's very tall himself, how did he react on meeting you?
Mohammad Irfan: Yes he's quite tall. When he saw me he said he used to think he was the tallest guy around but after meeting me he now feels short! (laughs)
PakPassion.Net: (laughs) What have you learnt from him?
Mohammad Irfan: When we're bowling in the nets together I ask him how he holds the ball and how he bowls different deliveries. I also ask him to watch me bowl and tell me what I'm doing wrong and how to correct it. He's very helpful and is working very hard on his own fitness and bowling.
PakPassion.Net: What's the most important tip he's given you?
Mohammad Irfan: He told me that you should try and get inside the batsmans head, to be a good bowler you need to think about what you're doing. He said to think about what the batsman is expecting you to bowl and what shot he's planning to play. Asif said that once you can understand what batsmen are trying to do, you will be a great bowler. The other thing he helped me with was my swing, I had a problem where I kept swinging the ball past the batsman and wide down the legside. He gave me some advice and after I implemented it I kept hitting the stumps and bowling the batsman. He's a really smart bowler, he's very clever and understands what batsmen are trying to do.
PakPassion.Net: What are your hobbies outside cricket?
Mohammad Irfan: At the moment, I dont have time for anything but cricket. When I'm relaxing back at the house, I watch a bit of TV or listen to some music. When I go back to Multan I spend some time with my friends and family but cricket is my main priority right now.
PakPassion.Net: Where do you see yourself in 1 year and 5 years time?
Mohammad Irfan: I'd love to be playing for Pakistan when I'm finished here at the NCA but I know that I haven't played any first class cricket so I'll be playing that first. Hopefully by this time next year I'll have proven myself good enough to play for Pakistan. In 5 years time I'm confident that I'll have piles of international wickets to my name!
PakPassion.Net: That would be great! Anyway Irfan bhai, thank you for your time and best of luck with the future.
Mohammad Irfan: Thank you and pass on my best wishes to everyone on the website.
Click here to read Part 1
Last edited by Mercenary; 18th March 2009 at 20:38.