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Sunday, July 11, 2021

former India pace bowler Pankaj Singh retires from all forms of Cricket !!!

How much of Cricket do you follow ! ~ and did you read about this fast bowler announcing retirement from all forms of Cricket !!

Leslie O'Brien Fleetwood-Smith,   played in 10 Test matches for Australia between 1935 and 1938, taking 42 wickets. A left-arm spin bowler who changed his style after breaking his right arm as a schoolboy, he often exploited the googly and the "chinaman" with effect.  

A few decades ago, we read interestingly about Cricket  camps before Overseas tours, when Barun Burman, Jyoti Prasad .. .. came close to selection and a young lad Kapil Dev was denied extra rotis, stating that there are no pace bowlers in India. In 1970s, we had heard of Abid Ali, Solkar, Madanlal, Ghavri opening the bowling and India’s fortunes changed with the advent of great Kapil Dev !  .. .. remember that in Chennai 1st division league there were young lads bowling fast – not only locals like Rajamannar, Bharathkumar, Arunkumar, Kalyanasundaram, TA Sekhar, Arun – but from MRF - Vivek Razdan, Subroto Banerjee and Ashish Winston Zaidi.

In 2014 – in England, after  Indians were bundled out  – Alastair Cook pulled Varun Aaron playing his 2nd test after his debut in 2011 into the hands of Pankaj Singh ! (post is on him on his retirement)

                 In the 3rd Test at Southampton the tall Pankaj Singh became 282nd  player to represent India in Test matches.  The previous player  from Rajasthan was Parthasarathi Sharma who played against the WI in 1975.  Pankaj had taken more than  300 wickets – Dilip Doshi had scalped close to 500 before he made his debut at Chennai and Amit Mishra also completed 300 first class wickets before his debut.  So it was Test no. 2132 in July 2014.  Scorecard does not paint a happy picture for Team India  -  England 569 for 7 dec (Bell 167, Ballance 156, Cook 95, Buttler 85) and 205 for 4 dec (Cook 70*, Root 56*) beat India 330 (Rahane 54, Dhoni 50, Anderson 5-53) and 178 (Rahane 52*, Moeen 6-67, Anderson 2-24) by 266 runs thus ending a winless run of ten Tests, which began in  previous August.    

In the next Test Pankaj Singh took the wickets of Joe Root and Jos Butler but never would have imagined that they would be his career haul ..  there have been so many fast bowlers representing India – Kapil was phenomenal, then there were the likes of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer, Irfan, Ishant, Bumrah, Shami, Bhuvneswar  and more ..  and some like Yograj who bowled fast but played a solitary test and luckless fearsome TA Sekar.  

Pankaj Singh, a tall and strapping right-arm medium-fast bowler from Rajasthan,  progressed from the Under-19 level to the India A side with consistent performances.   By 2006 he started showing signs of having matured, taking Rajasthan to the final of the Ranji Plate league, with 21 wickets at 20.95. In 2007, he was part of India A's twin tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya, and a total of 18 wickets in the unofficial Tests and ODIs in Kenya earned him a spot for the home series against South Africa A. With Sreesanth and Munaf Patel injured, he earned a call-up to India's Test squad to tour Australia. He signed with the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL before transferring to Royal Challengers Bangalore for the second season. His next big break came when he was included in the limited-overs sides for India's tour of Zimbabwe, when the selectors decided to rest several senior players.   He was among the top wicket-takers in the Ranji Trophy between 2009 and 2014 and also produced match-winning efforts for Rajasthan during their title wins in 2010 and 2011. He was finally rewarded for his performances with a spot in India's Test squad on the tour to England in 2014

Now comes the news that former 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."

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.  

"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 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.

Sadly on his debut test :  Pankaj had figures of 37-8-146-0 & 10-4-33-0 & then in the next test 28-5-113-2.  Thus his 2 international wickets came at 292 runs!  – and you have many big names in that list including Imran, Sarfraz, Vaas, Jeff Thomson and the whispering death Michael Holding.  The feared quickie with such a smooth run-up Holding made his debut at Brisbane in 1975 – went on to take 249 test wickets and 142 ODI wickets – but went wicketless conceding 81 & 46 in the 2 innings; while the fiery pacer Thommo gave 100 without a wicket on his debut.   

Pankaj Singh’s debut became forgettable as he has the dubious record of most expensive in debut – the towering 1.98m paceman finished with a match haul of 0-179 when  England declared its second innings on 4-205 in the third Test at Southampton. The previous worst was 0-164 by Pakistan’s Sohail Khan against Sri Lanka in Karachi in 2009. The worst performance in an innings on debut is that  Aussie leg-spinner McGain.  In what proved to be his only Test, McGain was smashed for 149 in 18 wicketless overs (a shocking 8.27 runs an over) as South Africa made 651 all out at Cape Town in 2009 before going on to win by an innings and 20 runs.  

Pankaj should consider himself unlucky as England captain Alastair Cook was dropped on 15 in the slips by Ravindra Jadeja,  and Ian Bell, then on nought, survived a confident lbw appeal  when Singh bowled well – but his career is not reflective of that.   Much like Thirumalai Ananthanpillai Sekhar who bowled well in Pak – saw two key Paki batsman dropped off his bowling and eventually did not strike it big in Test.  Life is harsh on some.

If you remember that Smith name of second  para, LO Fleetwood-Smith in  test in Aug 1938 (test 266) had figures of 87-11-298-1 !!!! – close to 300 conceded; then there was an Indian Off-spinner by name Rajesh Chauhan who had figures of 78-8-276-1 at Colombo on Aug 1997 in Test no. 1374.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
11th July 2021. 

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