What’s the story?
Cheteshwar Pujara has put forward a case for seamer Pankaj Singh to make a comeback into the Indian team. The middle-order batsman urged the 31-year old pacer to maintain his impressive form in the domestic circuit and keep improving himself if he were to harbour aspirations of returning to the national side.
Pujara said, “He (Pankaj) is a very good bowler. Personally, I feel he is one of the most talented fast bowlers we (India) have. He had an opportunity to represent the Indian team when we toured England (in 2014). Things didn’t go well but he is someone who always likes to improve.”
“He always gives his best and I definitely feel if he keeps performing at this level, he will definitely get an opportunity to play for the Indian team again. It’s just about maintaining his fitness (and) maintaining his bowling. He has to keep improving. Parthiv Patel is one example of having made a comeback after doing well in the domestic circuit.”
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A veteran in the first-class scene, Pankaj continued his rich vein of form in the 2016/17 Ranji Trophy season. He ended the tournament as the joint-third leading wicket-taker with 41 scalps from 8 matches at an impressive average of 22.07 including 2 five-fors.
The Rajasthan seamer was rewarded for his exploits by being included in the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup tie.
The heart of the matter
Pankaj has played 2 Tests and 1 ODI for India thus far. While the 50-overs game was against Sri Lanka during the 2010 Tri-series in Zimbabwe, both of his Test appearances came in the 2014 tour to England.
The tall fast bower’s debut in Southampton was quite an eventful affair with shoddy slip fielders and lack of Decision Review System (DRS) coming in the way of his maiden scalp.
He finally got his first Test wicket in the next Test at Old Trafford when Joe Root glanced a short ball down the leg-side to wicket-keeper MS Dhoni. However, Pankaj did not receive any opportunity in national colours thereafter.
Under Pujara’s captaincy, Rest of India will take on Ranji Trophy champions Gujarat for the Irani Cup clash at the Brabourne Stadium from Friday. Aside from Pankaj, the squad also has pace options in Krishnamoorthy Vignesh and Mohammed Siraj who replaced the injured Shardul Thakur.
Having been an accomplished product of India’s domestic system, Pujara‘s words should serve as a motivation for Pankaj Singh. Considering the amount of injuries to the national team’s key pacers in recent times, the seasoned campaigner certainly has a reasonable chance of making a comeback if he keeps performing consistently at first-class level.
He does not need to look farther than his opposition team’s (Gujarat) captain Parthiv Patel who successfully returned to the Test side after 8 long years.