India domestic season 2012-13 January 29, 2013

Ishwar Pandey makes his own luck

'Height. Speed. Strength. He has everything,' says the MP coach about fast bowler Ishwar Pandey, who is the leading wicket-taker this Ranji season

Sometimes seemingly casual decisions turn out to be the biggest in life. Ask Ishwar Pandey, the Madhya Pradesh fast bowler, who had nothing to do with a leather ball till his standard 12 exams, but then he walked into a selection trial. A few months later, he found himself bowling for the MP Under-19 team. Five years later, he is the highest wicket-taker this Ranji Tropy season, has played for India A, bowled at an India nets session, and has been signed by Pune Warriors in the IPL.

At that time, Pandey did not even know which team the trial was for. It was summer vacation from school in his hometown of Rewa, in eastern MP, and he had plenty of time to spare. "It was just one of those things," Pandey says. "I and a few friends decided to check out what the trial was about. Once there, aise hi jaake daal diya (I just had a casual bowl) on a matting wicket."

The trial was for the Rewa side, which plays in MP's competitive divisional cricket. Days after MP's Ranji season was over this year, Devendra Bundela, the state captain, turned out for Ujjain division. Pandey's deliveries must have been anything but casual, for he was soon told to report at a local club. He refused, saying his father would not allow it.

Pandey's father, a retired Subedar Major in the army, wanted his two sons to focus on their studies. Being the elder one, Pandey had little leeway, if any, against a strict disciplinarian father. It took the university coach, Mr Anthony, to convince the former soldier to let his son take up leather-ball cricket.

Pandey made his debut for MP U-19 in November 2007, but was dropped the following season after failing to take enough wickets. However, he had already impressed the U-19 coach, Mukesh Sahni, who now coaches the MP senior side. "Even then, he had the standout deliveries," Sahni says. "They were so good that at the U-19 level, batsmen weren't able to play them, and would get beaten. Probably that is why he did not have many wickets then."

Being left out also brought renewed pressure from his father to give up playing and concentrate on studying. Pandey had tasted blood by now, though. He switched streams from science to arts so that he could devote more time to cricket. The following year, he forced his way into the MP U-22 side with good performances at divisional level.

Amay Khurasiya, the former India and MP batsman, saw enough potential in Pandey to help him go to the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai. Regular stints there have helped increase his pace and improve his fitness, he says.

Standing 6'2" tall, Pandey bowls in the mid-130s, his height affording him bounce, even from a good length. He credits his father for both - his broad shoulders and his athleticism. The former is genetic, the latter a result of his father pushing him to run regularly from childhood. "Papa se main bahut kamzor hoon, magar height same hai (I am much weaker than my father, but as tall as him)," he says.

When I saw him two years ago, he looked an India prospect but now I say he is ready to play for the country
Narendra Hirwani

All these attributes are why MP haven't missed their erstwhile lead bowler and previous Ranji season's highest wicket-taker, the banned TP Sudhindra. In only his third season of first-class cricket, the 23-year old Pandey has delivered on the role Sahni had in mind for him since mid-2012, before MP embarked on their pre-season tour of Sri Lanka. "Height. Speed. Strength. He has everything," Sahni says. "Last season, Sudhindra had 40 wickets, Pandey had 25 as well. But he was not accurate enough. We have worked on his accuracy. Now he can move the ball both ways from the same spot around the off stump. We have also given him a more attacking role, as opposed to a slightly defensive one earlier. "

Pandey also fancies himself as a batsman. At least he used to during his tennis-ball days but realised soon that "there is a lot of difference between leather and tennis balls". He still loves batting. He almost took MP to victory in the thriller against Mumbai with some big sixes. Fast-bowling is where he's made a mark, though. Sahni is convinced he should play at the highest level. Narendra Hirwani, the former India and MP legspinner and former national selector, agrees.

"When I saw him two years ago, he looked an India prospect but now I say he is ready to play for the country," Hirwani told the Times of India. "He is fitter, stronger and most importantly hungrier. He has it in him to have a long international career."

Seeing him move up the ranks, Pandey's father, who is not a keen follower of the game, has also long given up his opposition to his son playing cricket. "'Now that you have chosen this path, continue on it,' he told me," Pandey says. His younger sibling, though, is yet to warm up. "He's not interested at all that his brother is playing," Pandey says with the smile of an accommodating elder brother. Perhaps it will take an India call-up to get his attention.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Patturaja on February 1, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    Fast yorkers... This is what our bowlers lack. Its good to see the fast bowlers emerge like Bhuvaneshwar, Shami. But they lack that toe-breaking yorkers. I could see them bowling another 20 matches restricting some runs with line an length, but not attacking. Its the same case with Praveen kumar, he was decent not in leaking runs but his strike rate is poor. Guys practise some yorkers ...!

  • U on January 31, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    India should start planning for the South Africa tour in earnest. We will need our best contingent of fast bowlers. A fully fit Zaheer, Umesh and Ishant alone can make India competitive. Selectors should rest them from the Australia tour at home since the focus will be on spin anyway and also give them a break from IPL . I would prefer to a rotation policy for fast bowlers for the Aus series where we try out our new talent like Bhuvneshwar, Shami, Awana, Ishwar, Dinda, Pankaj Singh etc. Each test I would open with a new pair to keep them fresh and give them exposure. The best among them can be the back up pace bowlers for SA tour. Maybe a bit radical but thats the only way we can ensure adequate rest for our best pace bowlers, try to prevent injuries and have them available for important overseas tours.

  • Vijeth on January 30, 2013, 13:36 GMT

    suprised not to see Rishi Dhawan in the team. He is a decent fast bowling allrounder and has done very well this yr. the other big surprise is the non inclusion of anyone from the Services Team. Yashpal Singh and RS Paliwal should have got a chance. The selectors are very biased towards players from bigger cities. Small town cricketers are probably better bets. Our own MSD is a good example... Read Aakash Chopra's article on The city v small-town cricketer (

  • jayaesh on January 30, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    I am so exited that someone from my hometown Rewa is getting a big break on rest of India and IPL stage and hopefully India soon.Rewa is hardly known to anyone outside M.P except wildlife enthusiasts (First white tiger was found here ) now Rewa has a decent stadium with turf wicket and supplying 3 to 4 players for M.P team. Second thing regarding bowling speeds, please take it from me that BCCI speed gun for domestic matches is atleast 4 to 5 Kph slower than the international ones.Best of luck to Ishwar Pandey !!!

  • Swastik on January 29, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    Ha, no one has seen him bowl and will jump at the first opportunity to pass snide remarks. He doesn't bowl at 130 -- more like 135-137, and his pace can increase. He's got *excellent* control, and the Ranji match I saw, he was beating batsmen a number of times. It doesn't matter what's happened in the past with multiple fast bowlers -- the guy deserves a chance, and a good run. Having 6-8 bowlers for different types of conditions can only help.

  • uncle bob on January 29, 2013, 17:32 GMT

    130 K at international level is nothing and unless he adds up another 10 K, he will end up as another have beens.

  • RK on January 29, 2013, 14:49 GMT

    Where's Dinesh Karthik? He doesn't figure in any of the teams. Saha is sure good for test cricket and will sure be found wanting for limited overs cricket. Parthiv on all the occasions tested proved, he's not up to the mark. DK will be an asset in short forms and sure deserves a chance.

  • Sriram on January 29, 2013, 14:29 GMT

    List of potentials gone waste - Munaf, Irfan, RP, Mithun, Vinay, PK, Sree, VRV, Gony, Aaron and latest casualty Dinda...Warning Ishwar. rather than focusing on playing for India, give your best to Pune atleast you will make a decent career in IPL. Mid 130s will not help unless you know to swing like Junaid Khan.