India in England 2014 May 28, 2014

'One of the biggest moments of my life'- Pankaj

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"It is one of the biggest moments of my life," is how Pankaj Singh described his selection in India's Test squad for the forthcoming five-Test series in England to be played in July-August.

The selectors' call finally brought to an end a desperate six-year wait for Pankaj who had laid bare his frustrations in an interview in January with ESPNcricinfo, where he had said "abhi nahin toh kabhi nahin" (if not now then never).

"I have a dream of playing for India. I want to be in the Indian team and for that no matter how much hard work I had to do, no matter how many wickets I had to take, I just told myself I had to do it. That is how now I have got it," Pankaj told ESPNcricinfo from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, his hometown. The last time Pankaj was part of an Indian Test squad was during India's 2008 Test series in Australia. Two years later in 2010, he played in the tri-series in Zimbabwe, the last time he wore an India cap.

Pankaj, 29, had said that it was the "zid" (stubbornness) that had kept his motivation strong and helped him finish among the top wicket-takers in the Ranji Trophy for the last five years. Pankaj had also produced match-winning performances for Rajasthan during their successful seasons in 2010 and 2011, pushing him to the top of the wicket-taking charts with 196 scalps. Although Rajasthan failed to make it into the knockouts this year, Pankaj finished as the joint fifth-highest wicket-taker with 39 dismissals.

Despite Pankaj's doubts over his future, the selectors picked him to play for Rest of India against Karnataka in the Irani Cup. There, Pankaj finished as RoI's best bowler with six wickets.

"I have been doing well for the last couple of seasons. I also did very well for Rest of India," Pankaj said. "That selection showed that the selectors wanted to see me. So after a good performance, there was hope that I should be getting more chances. Now, that has come true."

At 6'4", Pankaj is the tallest fast bowler along with Ishant Sharma. Capable of swinging the ball both ways, Pankaj uses his height and a strong arm to generate lethal bounce. These are some of the skillsets Pankaj has polished over the years in domestic cricket to be recognised as one of the most dangerous fast bowlers in the country. Pankaj aims to utilise that vast experience if he gets a chance to play in England.

"I have done well in the first-class cricket in the last few years. Hopefully I can bring that same momentum to the international stage," Pankaj said. "Also, the conditions in England are friendly to a fast bowler as the ball seams as well as swings in the air."

Having waited so long to make his Test debut, Pankaj is willing to be patient. Considering the long duration of the tour and keeping in my mind the seaming conditions prevalent during the English summer, the Indian selectors have picked a seven-man pace attack.

Pankaj has never played in England but like most players, he has a dream of bowling at Lord's, though he is not rushing too far ahead.

"I have got what I wanted. Now I have a chance to prove to myself that I have the ability," he said. "I have the calibre to perform at the biggest stage. They have shown faith in me and now I want to stand up to the task."

If Pankaj does get his long cherished debut, he will achieve a rare feat by becoming the Indian bowler with most first-class wickets (300) before a Test debut.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nampally on May 31, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    @Triple_A: My suggestion is to get the guys in their best form currently based on their record & performance. Gambhir is included in the side as the 3rd opener purely on his IPL7 performance. He performed very poorly in all domestic Ranji & other tournaments. He went to England for county Cricket & had only one big innings + a series of "Ducks". Both Nair & Uthappa have been opening the innings for few years & their record in Indian Cricket + IPL 7 was consistently better than Gambhir this year. In England the new ball retians its shine for nearly 50 overs & will move both in the air & off the pitch. Gambhir is a "compulsive poker" of the balls outside the off stump & Dhawan to some extent too. Vijay is always a shaky starter. Can India expect good start from these 3 or put in guys brimming with confidence & consistent performance this year? India were swept 4-0 by England in their last tour because of poor openers. India has NOT addressed the problem of poor starters in current side.

  • on May 30, 2014, 9:03 GMT

    People are unnecessery taking a go at Ishant. He performed very well in NZ.

  • inswing on May 29, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    Hopefully, Pankaj will get chance to play after India loses first two tests due to nonperforming Ishant and Ashwin. Ashwin will still keep his place, after taking 1 for 80.

  • inswing on May 29, 2014, 17:54 GMT

    Good luck Pankaj Singh, sounds like a deserving selection. Surely he will not be as ineffective as Ishant. The only problem is going to be that Ashwin will be selected as the only spinner in the 11, who is also highly ineffective outside India. Actually Praveen Kumar should have been selected too. He was the best bowler in England on last tour (when Zaheer dropped out in the first test itself). Then he missed out because of injury, not because of quality of bowling. Now he is fit and bowling well.

  • LegSpinBowlr on May 29, 2014, 15:27 GMT

    Gud luck Pankaj, Hope he has enugh pace as just swing enugh is not good at international level or else you will end up like praveen kumar. I think dhoni should move away from test captaincy and conc on ODI's and T20's

  • DingDong420 on May 29, 2014, 15:23 GMT

    Hopefully he gets a chance instead of Ishant

  • on May 29, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    Pankaj Singh most deserving if you dont follow domestic cricket of India then should post on this topic..so met Kapil Dev today and now this good news...very happy

  • ToTellUTheTruth on May 29, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    With Bhuvi, Shami and Ishant as favorites (esp. Ishant being captain's pet), there is really no hope for others, barring the side games.

  • CricFanKrish on May 29, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    Pankaj's selection is well deserved, but like others have already said it remains to be seen if he gets a game in England. I'm still not 100% convinced that Gauti can be the reserve opener. His attitude is worse than Sehwag's and is bound to create divisions in the team. The selectors should have thought of somebody else like Robin Utthappa, who has been consistent across all domestic formats. I also agree with people who believe Umesh Yadav should have been chosen instead of Ishant Sharma. Ishant comes up with a 5-wicket haul once in 10 innings and get a grand total of 5 wickets for all the other 9 innings combined. Yet, his sole 5-wicket haul is what the selectors look at.

    When Sandip Patil took over as the chairman and made sweeping changes, I was hoping that this new selection committee would continue the good work and get rid of "Non-performing assets". However, with the persistence with a failing Ishant stands out in striking contrast to my hope.

    Anyway, all the best India!

  • wolf777 on May 29, 2014, 13:33 GMT

    @ James no wonder you are delighted....English Cricketers are used to military medium pace of likes of Pankaj Singh...they grow up on this diet...it the combined pace of Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav that would have bothered you guys...

  • Nampally on May 31, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    @Triple_A: My suggestion is to get the guys in their best form currently based on their record & performance. Gambhir is included in the side as the 3rd opener purely on his IPL7 performance. He performed very poorly in all domestic Ranji & other tournaments. He went to England for county Cricket & had only one big innings + a series of "Ducks". Both Nair & Uthappa have been opening the innings for few years & their record in Indian Cricket + IPL 7 was consistently better than Gambhir this year. In England the new ball retians its shine for nearly 50 overs & will move both in the air & off the pitch. Gambhir is a "compulsive poker" of the balls outside the off stump & Dhawan to some extent too. Vijay is always a shaky starter. Can India expect good start from these 3 or put in guys brimming with confidence & consistent performance this year? India were swept 4-0 by England in their last tour because of poor openers. India has NOT addressed the problem of poor starters in current side.

  • on May 30, 2014, 9:03 GMT

    People are unnecessery taking a go at Ishant. He performed very well in NZ.

  • inswing on May 29, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    Hopefully, Pankaj will get chance to play after India loses first two tests due to nonperforming Ishant and Ashwin. Ashwin will still keep his place, after taking 1 for 80.

  • inswing on May 29, 2014, 17:54 GMT

    Good luck Pankaj Singh, sounds like a deserving selection. Surely he will not be as ineffective as Ishant. The only problem is going to be that Ashwin will be selected as the only spinner in the 11, who is also highly ineffective outside India. Actually Praveen Kumar should have been selected too. He was the best bowler in England on last tour (when Zaheer dropped out in the first test itself). Then he missed out because of injury, not because of quality of bowling. Now he is fit and bowling well.

  • LegSpinBowlr on May 29, 2014, 15:27 GMT

    Gud luck Pankaj, Hope he has enugh pace as just swing enugh is not good at international level or else you will end up like praveen kumar. I think dhoni should move away from test captaincy and conc on ODI's and T20's

  • DingDong420 on May 29, 2014, 15:23 GMT

    Hopefully he gets a chance instead of Ishant

  • on May 29, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    Pankaj Singh most deserving if you dont follow domestic cricket of India then should post on this topic..so met Kapil Dev today and now this good news...very happy

  • ToTellUTheTruth on May 29, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    With Bhuvi, Shami and Ishant as favorites (esp. Ishant being captain's pet), there is really no hope for others, barring the side games.

  • CricFanKrish on May 29, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    Pankaj's selection is well deserved, but like others have already said it remains to be seen if he gets a game in England. I'm still not 100% convinced that Gauti can be the reserve opener. His attitude is worse than Sehwag's and is bound to create divisions in the team. The selectors should have thought of somebody else like Robin Utthappa, who has been consistent across all domestic formats. I also agree with people who believe Umesh Yadav should have been chosen instead of Ishant Sharma. Ishant comes up with a 5-wicket haul once in 10 innings and get a grand total of 5 wickets for all the other 9 innings combined. Yet, his sole 5-wicket haul is what the selectors look at.

    When Sandip Patil took over as the chairman and made sweeping changes, I was hoping that this new selection committee would continue the good work and get rid of "Non-performing assets". However, with the persistence with a failing Ishant stands out in striking contrast to my hope.

    Anyway, all the best India!

  • wolf777 on May 29, 2014, 13:33 GMT

    @ James no wonder you are delighted....English Cricketers are used to military medium pace of likes of Pankaj Singh...they grow up on this diet...it the combined pace of Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav that would have bothered you guys...

  • on May 29, 2014, 13:05 GMT

    As an Englishman, I suppose I should be delighted to see Ishant in the side, but no Yadav, but I'd prefer to see England beat the best India can offer. IPL is clearly not a guide for tests (or Suresh Raina would be a world beater). I don't know much about Pankaj Singh, so can only wish him good luck.

    For me, Rohit shouldn't play in test in England: too flashy and will get out. Rahane would be a better bet. Pujara will probably be top scorer for India in the series.

    Not really clear what Binny is doing in the squad: not really a test player (more suited to ODI, as is Dhoni). Sir J is a good test all rounder, and you then need 4 bowlers (either Ashwin plus 3 pace, or 4 pace). I'd probably start with Bhuvi, Shami and Aaron, but it depends a bit on the pitch.

  • sray23 on May 29, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    Replace Ishant with Pankaj - he surely cannot do any worse! Bhuvi, Shami, Pankaj should be the 3 pacers in the 1st test.

  • on May 29, 2014, 11:30 GMT

    Happy for Pankaj. He deserved a shot. He was knocking the door since last 5 years. Finally his hard work paid off and selectors had to take him in. I think MSD should use him. He will be better than Ishant Sharma any day.

  • FAB_ALI on May 29, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    I fear he might end up serving water to the seniors for all series...if he is to play, he should be in the team in first test. Shami, Ishant and Pankaj should be the three pacers for first test with binny playing as an all rounder in place of Jadeja.

    In batting order I would like to see the team for first test as- Dhawan, Vijay/Gambhir, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni, Binny, Ashwin, Shami, Ishant & Pankaj.

  • on May 29, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    @wolf777 yes you are right 13 wickets in last 10 matches is hardly cause for selections.. selectors agree with you and have ignored these stats in T20 and Vijay hazare ;)

  • indiancricketfan12 on May 29, 2014, 5:49 GMT

    Will miss Zaheer, but all the best to PANKAJ SINGH. He deserved this chance..

  • wolf777 on May 29, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    13 wickets in last 10 matches hardly calls for selection...

  • Triple_A on May 28, 2014, 20:44 GMT

    Great to finally see Pankaj Singh in the squad. One poor series in Zimbabwe was held against him for too long!

    @Nampally, are you seriously suggesting that IPL performance be used as a base for TEST SELECTION, that too in ENGLAND?? Nair might be a good find presently, but it seems you missed the NZ series against NZ this year - Dhawan made pretty big contributions against a swinging ball. And Gambhir also played out a successful county season. I agree that Binny should not be included in a squad of even 50 individuals, but Karn Sharma is getting a bit far. We have Mishra and Ohja as better contenders.

    The squad is pretty big - most of the reserves wont get a chance as long as Dhoni is captain. I wish the selectors had chosen a 15 man squad instead and had 5 on reserve in India in case of injury. This squad, with only one reserve batsman, gives the wrong impression to the other batsman that they can make zero contributions and still be in the team.

  • Vilander on May 28, 2014, 20:06 GMT

    Happy for him, but will he get a game..? Umesh yadav was not selected that is the worst decision, having stuart binny in the side and Ishant sharma but no Umesh is just pathetic.

  • on May 28, 2014, 18:57 GMT

    Happy for U, Pankaj. Now, go ahead wid a clear mind and jus do wat u r good at.

  • Nampally on May 28, 2014, 18:11 GMT

    Congrats, Pankaj Singh. Prove your worth via your performance, if Dhoni ever includes you in His Xi. This squad has omitted the 2 opening batsmen in terrific form right now- Uthappa & Nair. These 2 should be opening the innings for India. Gambhir - a compulsive poker of the balls outside the off stump- does not deserve to be recalled. He has no performance record & both Uthappa & Nair have outscored him even in IPL 7. He failed miserably in the previous Indian tour of England & cannot play a swinging ball. Dhawan is also susceptible to balls outside the off stump. So India needs both Nair & Uthappa to open. Umesh Yadev- bowling at 145 KPH with fine direction & length- is in his best form. India needs 2 fast bowlers. Aaron & Yadev are these 2 + Kumar & Shami make up the quartet. Surprisingly Yadev did not make the cut in 18 man squad! I would have also liked to see Sanju Samson + Karn Sharma in the squad instead of Binny & Ishant. Binny has failed at all levels incl. IPL7-Why is he IN?

  • on May 28, 2014, 16:55 GMT

    Most deserving player best selection in this squad

  • sidban4 on May 28, 2014, 16:31 GMT

    Really happy for him. Based on merit and his performances over the last few years, he certainly deserved a shot in the Indian team ahead of rather useless bowlers like Vinay Kumar and Dinda, among some others. His desperation to play for the country in an earlier cricinfo article was heartening to see - in a day when players are more than satisfied in plying their trade and earning money in the T20 leagues. Hope he gets a fair chance to prove himself on the England, especially in wake of the fact that there have been a few passengers on the previous two tours and Dhoni somehow likes sticking to non-performing players in which the management has put faith into, rather than throwing newcomers into the mix.

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  • sidban4 on May 28, 2014, 16:31 GMT

    Really happy for him. Based on merit and his performances over the last few years, he certainly deserved a shot in the Indian team ahead of rather useless bowlers like Vinay Kumar and Dinda, among some others. His desperation to play for the country in an earlier cricinfo article was heartening to see - in a day when players are more than satisfied in plying their trade and earning money in the T20 leagues. Hope he gets a fair chance to prove himself on the England, especially in wake of the fact that there have been a few passengers on the previous two tours and Dhoni somehow likes sticking to non-performing players in which the management has put faith into, rather than throwing newcomers into the mix.

  • on May 28, 2014, 16:55 GMT

    Most deserving player best selection in this squad

  • Nampally on May 28, 2014, 18:11 GMT

    Congrats, Pankaj Singh. Prove your worth via your performance, if Dhoni ever includes you in His Xi. This squad has omitted the 2 opening batsmen in terrific form right now- Uthappa & Nair. These 2 should be opening the innings for India. Gambhir - a compulsive poker of the balls outside the off stump- does not deserve to be recalled. He has no performance record & both Uthappa & Nair have outscored him even in IPL 7. He failed miserably in the previous Indian tour of England & cannot play a swinging ball. Dhawan is also susceptible to balls outside the off stump. So India needs both Nair & Uthappa to open. Umesh Yadev- bowling at 145 KPH with fine direction & length- is in his best form. India needs 2 fast bowlers. Aaron & Yadev are these 2 + Kumar & Shami make up the quartet. Surprisingly Yadev did not make the cut in 18 man squad! I would have also liked to see Sanju Samson + Karn Sharma in the squad instead of Binny & Ishant. Binny has failed at all levels incl. IPL7-Why is he IN?

  • on May 28, 2014, 18:57 GMT

    Happy for U, Pankaj. Now, go ahead wid a clear mind and jus do wat u r good at.

  • Vilander on May 28, 2014, 20:06 GMT

    Happy for him, but will he get a game..? Umesh yadav was not selected that is the worst decision, having stuart binny in the side and Ishant sharma but no Umesh is just pathetic.

  • Triple_A on May 28, 2014, 20:44 GMT

    Great to finally see Pankaj Singh in the squad. One poor series in Zimbabwe was held against him for too long!

    @Nampally, are you seriously suggesting that IPL performance be used as a base for TEST SELECTION, that too in ENGLAND?? Nair might be a good find presently, but it seems you missed the NZ series against NZ this year - Dhawan made pretty big contributions against a swinging ball. And Gambhir also played out a successful county season. I agree that Binny should not be included in a squad of even 50 individuals, but Karn Sharma is getting a bit far. We have Mishra and Ohja as better contenders.

    The squad is pretty big - most of the reserves wont get a chance as long as Dhoni is captain. I wish the selectors had chosen a 15 man squad instead and had 5 on reserve in India in case of injury. This squad, with only one reserve batsman, gives the wrong impression to the other batsman that they can make zero contributions and still be in the team.

  • wolf777 on May 29, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    13 wickets in last 10 matches hardly calls for selection...

  • indiancricketfan12 on May 29, 2014, 5:49 GMT

    Will miss Zaheer, but all the best to PANKAJ SINGH. He deserved this chance..

  • on May 29, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    @wolf777 yes you are right 13 wickets in last 10 matches is hardly cause for selections.. selectors agree with you and have ignored these stats in T20 and Vijay hazare ;)

  • FAB_ALI on May 29, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    I fear he might end up serving water to the seniors for all series...if he is to play, he should be in the team in first test. Shami, Ishant and Pankaj should be the three pacers for first test with binny playing as an all rounder in place of Jadeja.

    In batting order I would like to see the team for first test as- Dhawan, Vijay/Gambhir, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni, Binny, Ashwin, Shami, Ishant & Pankaj.