Discarded India fast bowler Irfan Pathan could follow the footsteps of Zaheer Khan, who benefited heavily from playing for Worcestershire in 2006. The following season, Zaheer took 18 wickets in three Tests as India won a series in England after a gap of 21 years. Since his county stint, Zaheer has 150 wickets from 36 Tests.
"Everyone who has played there (in England) reckons one's bowling improves a lot. I thought my bowling picked up rhythm during IPL. My swing is working nicely... I would enjoy the conditions in England," Pathan told MiD DAY last week.
"I am fit and raring to get back to the park, and don't want to talk about playing county cricket yet because it is up to the board to allow me. If they do, obviously, I'll be glad to take up the offer," said Pathan, who recently negotiated a deal with Leicestershire Foxes to play in the FL T20, the domestic T20 championship in England.
"If I don't go to England, I'll just train and get ready for the Ranji Trophy," he added.
MiD DAY has learnt that Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wants to lift the ban on Indian players heading to the county circuit, but only for first-class cricket.
Thus, Pathan won't be allowed to play T20s for Leicestershire. "At this stage, I just want to get out and play. I am not thinking about format, conditions, or the opposition. I just want to get out and bowl, I have never felt fitter," said Pathan. "There's a long domestic season ahead. I want to bowl at least 10 to 15 overs a day to gain rhythm," added Pathan, who became only the second Indian bowler to take a Test hat-trick at Karachi in 2006.
Pathan, who is currently in his home at Vadodara, stressed that the BCCI have lent him much support. "They have supported me a lot by organising camps for me at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. There are physios who are constantly in touch with me. I have regained full fitness thanks to their support. If they allow me, I would love to play in England," he said.
A BCCI official admitted that players would benefit more from playing first-class than T20 cricket. "Yes, we are little hesitant about them playing T20 cricket. Many players are receiving offers to go to England. It will benefit their game by playing there. We will take a call soon," the official said.
However, rumour has it that the BCCI are not keen on Indian players participating in the FL T20 because the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) refused to send two teams for last year's Champions League Twenty20 (CL T20) citing a clash with its calendar.
Pathan also received an offer to play in the Sri Lanka Premier League, but will not be in the Emerald Isles because the BCCI has barred its players from participating.