'Playing Test cricket my most cherished memory', Pankaj Singh says after announcing retirement
Singh said he had to listen to his body after a bout of Covid-19 left him feeling weak
Former India fast bowler Pankaj Singh, 36, has retired from all forms of cricket, thereby ending his professional career that spanned nearly 17 years. Singh said he had to listen to his body after a bout of Covid-19 left him feeling weak.
"I was down with Covid, and once I recovered, the post-Covid symptoms left me drained," he told ESPNcricinfo. "Also, when I looked at where I stand, I felt I wouldn't have added anything by pushing on for one more year. During the previous domestic season itself I realised it's hard to come out after months of not playing. Training and conditioning to play a full season seemed tough, so I thought I should listen to my body and retire."
First called in to the Indian Test squad on their tour of Australia in 2007-08, Singh had to wait for over six years to eventually earn his Test cap. In all, he featured in two Tests, both on the England tour of 2014, and a solitary ODI in Zimbabwe in 2010. But it is Singh's domestic numbers that define him. In 2019, Singh became the first seamer to take 400 Ranji Trophy wickets. Overall, he finishes with 472 first-class wickets in 117 matches, apart from picking 118 List A wickets and 43 T20 wickets.
The domestic stalwart ends his career with new entrants Puducherry, but it's his body of work with Rajasthan that stands out. Having been a senior fast bowler and captain during a turbulent time, with the association being managed by an ad-hoc body for much of the last decade due to administrative upheavals, Singh was part of two back-to-back Ranji Trophy winning squads in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
"Getting my Test cap from Sourav Ganguly in England was special," Singh said. "I am fortunate to have played under a legend like MS Dhoni. Playing Test cricket is my most cherished memory as a professional cricketer. It came after a lot of struggles, so that has to be the most special memory."
Singh picks out his spell against Mumbai during the 2010-11 Ranji Trophy quarterfinal as one of his most memorable ones. "The Rajasthan teams of old would lose against Mumbai even before taking the field, but in that game, we proved to everyone we were no less," he said. "They elected to bat in a pressure game, and I removed three top order batters: Sahil Kukreja, Omkar Gurav and Rohit Sharma."
"I still remember, everyone was talking of Mumbai as the favourites. They had a strong XI: Ajit Agarkar, Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane and Ramesh Powar. So, I took the challenge upon me that we had to win somehow. That game gave us the belief to go on to win our maiden season."
Singh is a Level-2 certified BCCI coach, having recently taken part in a course conducted by the NCA. With a full-fledged domestic calendar announced, Singh hopes to transition into guiding youngsters, both in Rajasthan and elsewhere.
"I'm looking at getting into coaching now that I have retired," he said. "Until I did the NCA course, the thought was 'I've played a lot of cricket; the experience will help me transition into a coach.' But after attending the course, I gained a deeper insight into managing a team, understanding players, man-management skills and how there is so much more to coaching than just teaching them how to bowl or bat. It interested me a great deal. Having now qualified, I'm looking forward to being in touch with the game as a coach."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo