England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 2nd day

Pankaj singed by tough debut

After striving so long to play Test cricket, Pankaj Singh's luck deserted him and then his discipline too

Nagraj Gollapudi at the Ageas Bowl

July 28, 2014

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A
Highlights: Pankaj Singh's frustration grew after a serious of close shaves went against him on Test debut

Pankaj Singh's wicket column was empty. Two days at the new job. No returns. Many times he stood in the field, hands on hips with a helpless expression. He would walk back to his bowling mark shaking his head when luck did not smile on him. You could understand his frustration.

It was a tough initiation for the man who had cried his heart out at the turn of the New Year, asking the selectors to give him one chance at playing Test cricket. On Sunday the dream became reality when Pankaj was handed his Test cap by former India captain Sourav Ganguly.

On Monday, Pankaj sprinted in from backward short leg full of energy and renewed hopes. He settled in quickly, with his fourth delivery whistling past the outside edge off Ian Bell's hanging bat. The next ball, Bell once again was lured into playing and missing as once again the ball seamed away, missed the edge and MS Dhoni caught the ball at waist height.

Bell should not even have been there, if you asked Pankaj. In the first over after the second new ball was taken late on Sunday afternoon, Pankaj, bowling from Northern End, had managed to bend a delivery which seemed to be going down leg but swerved into Bell's pads at the very last moment. Not only did it catch Bell by surprise but even the umpire, Rod Tucker, was caught off guard. Pankaj shrieked out a prolonged appeal, nearly squatting, but Tucker remained unimpressed.

Pankaj Singh's bowling breakdown

  • Figures on first day: 20-3-62-0
  • Second day: 17-5-84-0
  • Last seven overs: 7-0-46-0
  • Fruitless toil: Pankaj's figures of 0 for 146 were the second worst by a wicketless bowler on debut, after Bryce McGain (0 for 149 against South Africa, 2009)

While picking up his hat Pankaj checked with Tucker, who might have noted the ball would have gone down the leg side at first sight. According to Hawk-Eye, the ball would have gone on to hit the top of the middle stump. Pankaj had bowled with decent control and intensity on his first day of work, proving he was a capable replacement for the injured Ishant Sharma. He would have had the wicket of Alastair Cook, too, had Ravindra Jadeja not dropped the chance.

First ball of Pankaj's second over today, Bell was forced to play at an outswinger, but the resultant edge zipped past the empty fourth slip pocket. Pankaj grimaced. It was a similar expression he had displayed at the end of the hard day's work at stumps on Sunday. After he had delivered the final ball of the day, Pankaj bent over with his hands on his knees out in the middle of his pitch with an exhausted and helpless look.

You could not help but feel for Pankaj. He had strived hard to reach the international stage. His journey started in a village in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh before he moved down south where he worked part-time at a sweet shop in Bangalore while pursuing dreams of playing top-level cricket. He moved to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai before heading to play domestic cricket for the west state of Rajasthan, where he has grown into their best bowler, leader and mentor to youngsters.

Pankaj was the central architect of Rajasthan winning the Ranji Trophy title in successive years in 2011 and 2012 seasons. He has been the most consistent, high-performing fast bowler in the last five years in Indian first-class cricket.

Yet Pankaj continued to be ignored by the selectors, who did not even deem him fit to play on India A tours. No selector ever told him what they expected of him or what they needed him to work on. Each time a team was announced, Pankaj would just swallow the pain and get on with the job. With such a compelling back-story, Pankaj, at 29 years old, was bound to be emotional on his debut.

It is also easy to understand his eagerness to make an impact. It is like being in the first week of job. It is natural you want to impress - more yourself than others. You want to feel that you have earned your job.

Credit to him, on the first day Pankaj did not show nerves. He bowled tidily and mostly followed his captain MS Dhoni's instructions. After every over Dhoni would share insights and tips with the debutant. It was important to tell the bowler he had his captain's confidence. Giving Pankaj the second new ball was a cue.

A decent percentage of Pankaj's 258 first-class wickets for Rajasthan was of batsmen who can easily get distracted. International batsmen are a different breed. Pankaj would have learned that lesson by now

Yet Pankaj was a lost soul on Monday, especially after lunch. It did not help his cause that Dhoni never allowed his bowlers to settle into a rhythm, as Pankaj bowled six one-over spells in the second session. Pankaj, broad-shouldered, 6ft 4in tall, uses a lot of his body in his action. He relies on rhythm to plot his wickets. So Dhoni's out-of-the-box method did not especially aid Pankaj.

However, it was not Dhoni's fault that Pankaj strayed in his lines and lengths. Too many times today he lost control by either spraying it short and wide or down the leg side, offering easy shots for Bell and Gary Balance in the morning and later Bell and Jos Butler in the afternoon.

For Rajasthan, a decent percentage of Pankaj's 258 first-class wickets was of batsmen who can easily get distracted. International batsmen are a different breed. Pankaj would have learned that lesson by now. His duel with Bell was a fascinating example. Bell had played and missed frequently but any room he got from Pankaj he punished the bowler: like the solid, back-foot square drive in the morning, standing high on his toes, that raced to the boundary and pushed Pankaj back into his corner.

Pankaj was desperate. But he needs to understand being successful is not only about taking wickets. It is also about working for your bowling partners. Whenever he was thrown the ball, he needed to be disciplined, especially on a placid and slow pitch, to not lose the momentum which would only put pressure on the rest of the bowling. It was important to stick to the off-stump line and bowl the channels - a simple, monotonous chore, yet one that has proved effective for every successful fast bowler. What stands in Pankaj's favour is he has employed that same method on unresponsive, flat pitches in India for the last decade.

It is easy to get frustrated. It is easy to feel you are on your own when you finish as the second most-expensive bowler without a wicket in your first outing. But Pankaj is not alone there. Michael Holding recollected his debut Test in Brisbane in 1975 tour of Australia where he finished wicketless.

That is the truth in Test cricket: it can be a lonely place when things are not going your way. As a debutant you want to feel belonged on your first days at work. But you need to clock a lot of mileage before you get to that spot.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Vel2win on (July 31, 2014, 6:35 GMT)

Here I believe Pankaj bowled well and only becoz of poor slip fielder placement this lad is unlucky to grab the much deserved wickets.. but all in game of cricket. I hope Indian tema management will understand the the way he bowled in this match rather than thinking he is wicket less. Hope to see him in rest 2 tests... All the best Pankaj!!!!

Posted by dilipshinde on (July 30, 2014, 9:33 GMT)

Bad slip fielding, poor umpiring and lack of DSR ruined Pankaj's debut. Why cant Indian slip fielders stand a few feet nearer to the batsman? What is the fielding coach doing? I do not remember a high slip catch missed because the fielder is too far nearer to the batsman. Despie not taking wickets, I would choose him ahead of Ishant who got wickets in the last match due to batsmans error. If only Pankaj can reduce the number of balls he bowls on the legs or outside.

Posted by dilipshinde on (July 30, 2014, 9:30 GMT)

Bad slip fielding, poor umpiring and lack of DSR ruined Pankaj's debut. Why cant Indian slip fielders stand a few feet nearer to the batsman? What is the fielding coach doing? I do not remember a high slip catch missed because the fielder is too far nearer to the batsman. Despie not taking wickets, I would choose him ahead of Ishant who got wickets in the last match due to batsmans error. If only Pankaj can reduce the number of balls he bowls on the legs or outside.

Posted by balaji28 on (July 30, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

According to me pankaj bowled better than bhuvi and shami.I think pankaj is better than ishant and even ishant would have faltered in this wicket.So my sincere request to dhoni is please select pankaj in rest of the series too to prove his worth.

Posted by mysecretme on (July 30, 2014, 5:30 GMT)

Pankaj bowled well, but he needs to quickly address the issue of him getting disheartened with umpire decisions and drops. He is a debutant. He cannot afford to get into funk. He is experienced enough at Ranji level to know that these things happen. Better get back into the right frame of mind and enjoy the game while giving it his all. If he shows poor attitude, there is a chance that Dhoni will drop him forever.

Posted by Mr_Anonymous on (July 29, 2014, 23:53 GMT)

I think Pankaj should not worry too much about not getting wickets. He has gotten to play in a Test Match after waiting for a long time. This is something he really wanted and most people would have felt that his chances were slim of making it when the following was written not too long ago. http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/story/706465.html

However, he has made it with this far and now it is time to just take the opportunity and show the learning that he has obtained from India's first-class cricket. Pankaj was considered by most people to be a very hard-working and disciplined bowler and something happened where he lost that. I don't think people doubt his stamina or his ability. He just needs to enjoy himself if he gets a chance in the second innings and not worry about the wickets. If he bowls according to his ability and stays disciplined, he can be satisfied with that even if he does not end up with any wickets although hopefully the wickets will come.

Posted by harekare on (July 29, 2014, 14:53 GMT)

He was just unlucky. Very unlucky. But one thing for sure, Shami is the worst bowler for some time and Dhwan is thewsorst batsman sofar. These two should be axed for good .

Posted by cricisme on (July 29, 2014, 12:03 GMT)

He is a great bowler.. He is so new to International cricket, one cannot judge him from his first match. To be fair he could have dismissed two high scoring batsmen had the umpire given the right lbw decision for Bell and Jadeja had not dropped Cook in the slip.

Posted by PutMarshyOn on (July 29, 2014, 9:55 GMT)

He bowled far better than people will guess when they look at the Wisden page in years to come. Sure he got tired and couldn't settle in Dhoni's bowler-go-round but for all that he should have had wickets. Reminds me a bit of Stuart Clark. Could have 2-3 really good years in him at test level.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 9:51 GMT)

Can u link Holding's recollection, would be a interesting read.

Posted by Alistair0610 on (July 29, 2014, 9:28 GMT)

Now if only there was some sort of Decision Review System available....

Posted by glance_to_leg on (July 29, 2014, 9:27 GMT)

An honest and not unintelligent bowler, and probably a victim of India's refusal to use the review system ... But test cricket is so-called for a reason. It is great because it tests character, and, if Pankaj cannot bounce back after this, he will never make a test cricketer. As one recently retired pro said to me: 'You have more bad days in cricket than good ones', and Pankaj needs to learn not to let his head droop, whatever the circumstances. Pace, incidentally, is not everything: plenty of very good and some great bowlers have not been especially fast (think McGrath, Alderman, Fraser, Ellison); but there are no good bowlers who lack character.

Posted by ramli on (July 29, 2014, 9:16 GMT)

Well ... it is not all over for him ... there may be second innings in this test ... so, he can see some entries made in wickets column, still ... otherwise, he did not bowl badly by any standards ... Eng batted well, that is all

Posted by deepmankar on (July 29, 2014, 9:07 GMT)

Pankaj singh need more experience in international format, he need to be mentally strong when you dont get wickets most inexperienced bowlers will try to change length thats what pankaj did over two days. two unlucky occasions made a huge difference to his confidence if he starts bowling in line and length he will be more dangerous than Ishant or shami due to his pace and stamina

Posted by sray23 on (July 29, 2014, 8:23 GMT)

Pankaj bowled much better than his figures suggest. If Sir had not dropped Cook on 15 then who knows what could have happened? I really don't understand why Dhoni picked only 4 bowlers in this match. After doing so much bowling at Lords & Nottingham, they should have known that Bhuvi & Shami may have started feeling the strains of the series - and with 2 tests to go still a 5th bowler now would have been really useful in controlling the workloads and pressure on the others. I hope Pankaj plays again the next game and Bhuvi and Shami are rested for Ishant and Aaron. As for this game, only God help India.

Posted by wapuser on (July 29, 2014, 8:15 GMT)

If Bell had been given out and Jadeja had not dropped the catch the story would have another find for India

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 7:58 GMT)

IF i were a selector i would never select Pankanj, i dont know what is the reason to select him he will not bowl over 140k+ and at the age of 30 we cant think him for future cric instead they should give chance and test varun aron or umesh yadav

Posted by MagazineReader on (July 29, 2014, 7:41 GMT)

It seems to my perspective at least 1. We used to play 2 home seasons+ 1 Overseas or 1 home season+ more than 1 overseas tour every year [as most of the team in other than India still follows] So people like Punkaj should have been tested like Shami prior to get into foreign tours. And more than that Wondering India is the Only country sparing lot of bench stacker groups which prone to let the players to think about giving the fellow players chances eventually lead to leave the catches in no man's land or colliding to each other to drop the catches/chances...

Posted by yogicoolboy on (July 29, 2014, 7:28 GMT)

Pankaj Should be given another chance

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 7:25 GMT)

Bad luck. Feeling sorry for Pankaj. He is really a work-horse. Fielder should support

him by grabbing half-chances also. team should give him confidence and support. all the best. Hope he puts price on his wicket ,as far as batting has concerned.Also needs pep talk as saurav mentioned in his commentary. save this match , hope our batting comes good. All the Best Pankaj singh ,as you will get more chances as Ishant is carrying injury.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 6:24 GMT)

As rightly pointed out by Landl47 pankaj would have had his first wicket only if the bcci was living in the 21st century. But strangely everybody who matters in Indian cricket is against Drs.Even outspoken commentators like saurav ganguly do not comment out openly in support of Drs.same old reason that it is not a 100% Is given and strangely enough the ICC has not made drs compulsory

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 6:19 GMT)

There are some countries who would shake a tree and multiples of bowlers far better than Pankaj Singh will fall for nothing. Anyway this guy looks concentrating more on his body building skills rather than his bowling.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 6:13 GMT)

Pankaj Sing is not a good bowler! With a very good physique and good height he is able to bowl 120-132 max, not troubling the batsmen, i don't know how he is getting these much wickets in indian pitches, same story with Iswar Pandey , but he is bit better , but still a 130 bowler

Posted by wapuser on (July 29, 2014, 5:11 GMT)

The guy is extremely unlucky, he bowled better lines than shami/bhuvi and had good control until the last session. India has to persist with him bcos his figures does not indicate how well he was bowling.

Posted by yogicoolboy on (July 29, 2014, 4:59 GMT)

Bad luck for Pankaj Singh. He bowled well but without any luck. Lets Hope ishant gets fit. I feel Pankaj deserves a another go. Probably Shami can be rested

Posted by android_user on (July 29, 2014, 4:52 GMT)

pankaj Singh good bowler deserved to get two wickets on first day seems like a natural outswinger he will come good if he get chances continuously and the next problem is our slip cordon our slip fielders standing deep and the edges r not carrying we do not bowlers have 145kph we have a bowlers up to 135 kph only if our dhawan stand correctly jos butler would be gone in 30s our team must know their strengths and use them correctly surely pujara Vijay rahane will contribute if kholi and dhoni fire India can post above or around 480 or 500 I think did match is gng to draw if our batsmen fire especially kholi dhoni

Posted by Anil_Koshy on (July 29, 2014, 4:20 GMT)

He should be given more opportunities, Ishwar can be brought in Shami, who is struggling in this series.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 4:12 GMT)

India deserves to lose for their illogical team selections.When you have pacers like Umesh out of squad and Varun carrying drinks,it's ridiculous.India needs bowlers who can bowl around 145 kmph consistently with good swing and bounce.The likes of Pankaj,Shami,Ishant,Ishwar and all other bowlers are just mediocre and will be easily put in their place by any good team.Ishant got 7 wickets in last match since England gifted him but the aussies won't do any such favour for sure.If the amount of chances Ishant and Shami got would have been given to Umesh and varun,we would have lethal pacers by now.The so suggested Rishi dhawan and Stuart Binny won't help India's cause either.My team for 4th test is:Vijay,Pujara,Kohli,Rahane,Dhoni,Ashwin,Jadeja,Bhuvi,varun,Ishwar,Ishant,i.e 8 batsmen, 6 bowlers,3 all rounders.Plz consider jadeja and ashwin as batsman.Who cares about the spinners.If you can't produce and give chances to quality pacers now,forget the 2015 world cup.

Posted by android_user on (July 29, 2014, 4:09 GMT)

he needs to bowl around 140+ to trouble the batsman

Posted by android_user on (July 29, 2014, 4:03 GMT)

bring Aron and umesh

Posted by android_user on (July 29, 2014, 4:01 GMT)

Ind must blame themselves not to have drs. if bell was out for 0 story would have been change. if jaddu didn't dropped cook. then story could be worse for eng

Posted by landl47 on (July 29, 2014, 2:44 GMT)

Pankaj would, and should, have had Bell for nothing if the BCCI was living in the 21st century. Tough luck on the big guy, but he knows who to blame.

Posted by jackthelad on (July 29, 2014, 1:56 GMT)

We can look at this all the ways there are, the facts are plain; India have no bowlers worth talking about, Dhoni is a worse captain than Cook (and that's saying something!) and finally the England batsmen have remembered how to bat. End of story.

Posted by Shamshad05 on (July 29, 2014, 1:46 GMT)

It's high time Dhawan be given a break, he has too many failures and try Ashwin as a 5th specialist bowler who can bat. Try Ojha i/o Jadeja who has no variation and is not a test class bowler.Can try Pankaj i/o Shami when Ishant is back in action.

Posted by preeti28 on (July 29, 2014, 1:01 GMT)

I sincerely feel he needs to be given more chances. Hope he gets wickets in 2nd innings of this test

Posted by ozind95 on (July 29, 2014, 0:18 GMT)

India has goofed by not picking the right players like the bowlers and the right openers.

Posted by toucheandsuch on (July 29, 2014, 0:16 GMT)

I thought Pankaj bowled extremely well. The ball that "had" Ian Bell LBW was a beauty and I think the only reason the umpire did not uphold the appeal was that he did not believe someone bowling from over the wicket could get the ball to pitch on leg and hit middle. If Ishant is fit for the 4th test, India should retain Pankaj and drop Shami. My feeling is that if Pankaj gets a slightly helpful pitch, he will be a handful.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2014, 0:01 GMT)

I don't understand what Ravi jades is doing in this test team. Drops catches at slips, defensive bowler and can't bat except one good innings. He can't be chosen as a frontline bowler as an all rounder when India wants to play two spinners he is fine. Can someone please tell Dhoni watching Jadeja bowl in test cricket is boring and very defensive

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (July 28, 2014, 23:45 GMT)

Feel sorry for Pankaj Singh. He bowled his heart out, but our butterfinger slip catchers kept dropping catches. Pankaj should have 2 wickets by now.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2014, 23:26 GMT)

Don't lose heart, keep bowling in the right areas and wickets will come, you have to think smart and try to keep it on one side of the wicket..watch glen mcgrath ...one of the best fast bowler..learn from them..talk to english pacers to pick on their brain..this is just the beginning!

Posted by   on (July 28, 2014, 23:12 GMT)

I agree, he ended up bowling poorly, but some great stuff early on. A pity he didn't get a few cheap wickets at the end, and a bigger pity if he's a victim of no DRS - should have had bell for a duck.

Posted by CricketChat on (July 28, 2014, 22:09 GMT)

Pankaj kind of reminds of Rankin who played in the Ashes recently and quikly forgotten. As pointed out, he is tall and well but bowls only medium pace. He is not going to worry top class batsmen on most pitches as he is not fast through the air. Looks like a one test wonder for me. Aaron should be in for next test. It seems like Ind is under the dock already on day 2.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2014, 20:58 GMT)

Jadeja is not a test bowler. Big reason for Indian debacle overseas is including him and removing off spinner. New Zealand series also had same problem. Remove Jadeja, Dhawan first. Rest all looks fine.

Posted by baskar_guha on (July 28, 2014, 20:00 GMT)

Pankaj the debutant has tried hard and if luck had gone his way, he would have 2 wickets or more. Shami has been ordinary -- that is a worry for India.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2014, 20:00 GMT)

LEts try and give him half the chances others got. He may be a good bowler after all.

Posted by ABP235 on (July 28, 2014, 19:52 GMT)

Not taking wickets is not a big issue. But a well built lad like him bowling at 130kmph (something what Irfan ended up with, or Binny lives up with) is a big let down. Unlike a pitch like Lords, you will generally find good tracks where only the real speed merchants survive. As Anderson showed, as Steyn+Morkel always prove. As Akram or Waqar have proved time and again. We need genuine speedsters to succeed on pitches like the one at Aegis Bowl. I think India gave seniority importance and so fielded Pankaj - else, Varun Aaron who bowls and swings at around 140kmph could have been a better bet on this track, in Ishant's absence. India's batting is strong, but I think Anderson+Broad+Woakes can be a real thorn in India's flesh in this test match. And like in 2011, those 10 odd kms of extra pace could be the decider on this pitch.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2014, 19:43 GMT)

I feel he was better than Shami and Bhuvi. He needs to preserved especially since he has a decent pace. The guy has the built to be a workhorse and will not break down easy. Hopefully Dhoni keeps him around for a few more tours....

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