Pankaj Singh – The Unsung Hero
Pankaj Singh has been the spearhead of Rajasthan’s pace attack for more than nine years now. After their successful second term as Ranji Champions last season, Rajasthan are banking heavily on him once again to deliver them the title for a record third time. Averaging 25.7 in 65 matches on flat Indian pitches is an achievement in itself. Standing tall at 6 feet 5 inches, Pankaj has 16 five wicket hauls in just 65 matches and his form in the last 4 seasons has been prodigious to say the least.
Many who believe that the Rajasthan triumphs were only because of the three professionals – Aakash Chopra, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Rashmi Parida – tend to forget that all three are batsmen, and that the contribution of bowlers cannot be ignored. The bowling department was led by Pankaj Singh in both the seasons. He was the second-highest wicket-taker in the 2010-11 Ranji season with 43 wickets (53 in the entire domestic season) and was the third highest wicket-taker in Rajasthan’s victorious campaign last season. He has bagged close to 150 wickets in the last four domestic seasons. However, the national cap keeps eluding him.
A bowler of such a fearsome repute in the domestic circuit is not even considered to be one of the top 10 fast bowlers in the country. Although his first class average is way better than the likes of Ishant Sharma averaging 33, RP Singh (32), Sreesanth (36), Varun Aaron (41), Umesh Yadav (27), Irfan Pathan (28), Ashok Dinda (29) and Abhimanyu Mithun (30), all of these bowlers are being preferred over Pankaj Singh for national selection. What is truly sad to see is that he is not even in the slightest reckoning for the national team. He has consistently been ignored after being selected for one lone match in 2010 in a second-string Indian team led by Suresh Raina.
When the ongoing series against England started, as many as 9 fast bowlers (Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun and Sreesanth) were injured but Pankaj was still ignored. It is also interesting to note the fact that unlike many fast bowlers, Pankaj is not injury-prone and is used to bowling long spells for Rajasthan. Pankaj was denied place in the Indian squad for want of speed by the selectors, but for the last three seasons we have seen a completely new Pankaj Singh – someone who can bowl consistently at around 130 – 135 kph throughout the day.
It is quite interesting to see that how long the selectors will keep ignoring the most consistent fast bowler in the Indian domestic circuit.
I really hope he does not land up being another Ajay Sharma, who averaged 67.5 in 129 first class appearances but played only one Test match for India.