Two of the most talented – yet unlucky – all-rounders cricket has witnessed this century, Irfan Pathan and Jacob Oram go toe-to-toe with each other in today’s edition of Friday Fights. Both these men were show-stoppers on a cricket field, but what can they produce inside a ring?
Though one is six years younger than the other, Pathan and Oram, quite remarkably, made headlines and waned away from the game at the same time. Two designated bowling all-rounders, who provided their respective countries a plethora of memorable moments with the bat, Pathan and Oram were two of the biggest match-winners of the 2010s. Injuries meant that the sport of cricket, unfortunately, ended up seeing way less of the duo than it should have, but today at Friday Fights, Pathan and Oram will be taking the centre stage once again, after a decade. Individually they were electric, so will they blow the roof off when they come up against each other? Well, let’s find out.
ROUND 1 —> BOWLING AVERAGE: ORAM DRAWS FIRST BLOOD IN A HIGH-OCTANE FIRST ROUND
The referee rings the bell and immediately both men are on to each other like they’d been waiting to get their hands on each other for an entire decade. Sensing the 6’6 Oram is a slow-mover, Irfan, still fit as ever at 36, moves around swiftly and lands the first punch with his bowling average of 29.72. Oram is stung by the hit, but, with the long reach of his, he gets revenge immediately as he thunders a left jab with his average of 29.17 to take the honours. AN ELECTRIC START!
ROUND 2 —> BATTING AVERAGE: TWO-ZERO TO ORAM THE ALL-ROUNDER
Irfan could do no wrong as a teenager in international cricket, but he quickly realizes that his introduction to the squared circle is going to be much, much more arduous. Like Round 1, he tries to exploit Oram’s lack-of-mobility, but, like the first round, the Kiwi stands still and thwarts him. Oram’s batting average of 24.09 is enough to make him go 2-0 up against Irfan, whose 23.39 turns out to be not good enough.
ROUND 3 —-> NO.OF BALLS BOWLED PER GAME: A CHARACTER-FILLED IRFAN BOUNCES BACK IN STYLE
Be it in international cricket or in the IPL, in Test, T20 or ODI, the one trait that defined Irfan was his ability to bounce back. He always encountered setbacks, but he always bounced back in style. And so, after losing the first two rounds here, he decides to summon his early-2000s spirit. This time around he shelves the old tactic and decides to outwit his opponent through endurance. Irfan plays the endurance game and just stays in the contest and, after frustrating the big man for a minute and a half, seizes his moment and delivers a thumping right hook. His 48.79 balls per game is 5 more than Oram’s 43.19, and thus the endurance helps the Baroda man to get off the mark.
ROUND 4 —> WICKETS PER INNINGS: WE’RE ALL SQUARE! THE CONTEST IS ALIVE!
BANGGGGGG! IRFAN IS NOW A MAN ON A MISSION! He switches his tactic again and attacks Oram ALL-OUT from the word go and leaves his opponent shell-shocked. Be it with the ball or bat, attack was Irfan’s USP and the fearlessness helps him pocket this round. A bowler who was never afraid to entice batsmen, Irfan dangles the carrot here and deceives Oram, before striking at just the right moment. The Indian’s 1.46 wickets per game is significantly better than Oram, whose 1.13 lets him down just like it did in the 2011 WC SF vs Sri Lanka. 2-2 and it’s GAME ON!
ROUND 5 —-> ECONOMY RATE: THE BIG MAN EDGES AHEAD!
Now, you see, being aggressive is great, but it sometimes can prove to be a double-edged sword. Attacking incessantly gives you the best chance of winning, but it also renders you vulnerable to counter-attacks. And having won the previous round through sheer-aggression, Irfan bottles this round by being a bit too carefree. He throws a series of left-hooks – a tad too enthusiastically – and loses balance, and Oram pounces by bludgeoning a thumping right cross. Irfan’s terrible economy rate of 5.26 hands the round to Oram, whose 4.38 oozes discipline.
ROUND 6—-> NO. OF 4+ WICKET HAULS: AND IRFAN EQUALIZES AGAIN!
This is mind-boggling stuff from Irfan. It is almost as if he has sensed that the only way he can end up winning the contest is he throws caution to the wind. Oram expects the 36-year-old to tread cautiously after the embarrassment in R5, but “nope” says Irfan. He rattles the Kiwi all-rounder with a series of rip-roaring jabs and gets back on level terms for the second time in the game. Despite having played 40 fewer games than Oram (5) he has picked up two more (7) 4+ wicket hauls in his career.
ROUND 7 —> STRIKE RATE (BATTING): ORAM WON’T LET IRFAN TAKE CONTROL!
They say sometimes having a glance at the finishing line can be detrimental, for it could force you to change plans, and that is exactly what’s happened to Irfan here. Despite winning 2 of the previous 3 rounds through sheer aggression, he eschews the tactic and fights rather conservatively, and pays the price for the same. Irfan, here, is waiting for a mistake from Oram but that never comes as the 1.98 m tall giant downs the younger Pathan with a whopping left cross. The Kiwi’s elite batting SR of 86.61 is levels ahead of Irfan’s 79.54, which ends up putting him behind in the contest yet again.
ROUND 8 —-> NO.OF FIFTY-PLUS SCORES: OH WOW! IRFAN IS DOWN!
Still recovering from the aftershocks of the previous round, Irfan tries desperately to claw back into the contest but it just isn’t happening for him. He tries to unleash a 1-2-3-2 (Jab-Cross-Hook-Cross) combo but gets it all wrong after Oram sways out of the way. Irfan’s momentum leaves him off balance and the big Kiwi capitalizes and delivers a throbbing hook to FLOOR THE INDIAN! Where did this come from? Oram (14) remarkably has nine (!!) more fifty-plus scores in his career. Is the end near?
ROUND 9 —> TOTAL WICKETS IN ICC TOURNAMENTS: AND ORAM KNOCKS IRFAN OUT WITH A ROUND TO SPARE!
FOR ONCE IRFAN GIVES UP! After being floored in the previous round, he musters courage and energy to return for this one, but that turns out to be a bad call. Dazed by the near-KO in the previous round, he throws an innocuous punch in the form of his ICC wickets tally of 9, and this plays into the hands of Oram, who ends matters with a killer uppercut. Irfan goes to the floor for the second round running but this time around, there is no waking up. Oram puts him to sleep to pocket victory.
WINNER BY KNOCKOUT – JACOB ORAM
FINAL SCORE: JACOB ORAM 94-85 IRFAN PATHAN
It was only fitting and tragically poetic that Irfan’s maiden stint inside the ring ended precisely the same way his cricketing career did – in a flash after promising so much for a vast majority. For a long while the two distinctly different – yet similar – men went toe-to-toe with each other, but, eventually, Oram’s power and consistency was too much to handle for Irfan. The end was anticlimactic, but did the two all-rounders light up the stage? You bet they did.