Pankaj Singh should be given another chance to shine

Okay, so he had a tough debut. He didn’t get any wickets in both the innings. All right, but that’s Test cricket for you. It’s a tough game and one needs to be mentally strong enough to perform and succeed at highest level. I think Pankaj Singh did pretty well in achieving that.
He was unlucky a few times as Ravindra Jadeja dropped Alastair Cook at slip, which could have given Singh his first international wicket.
A LBW decision against Ian Bell was also not given by the umpire, and looking at how Pankaj appealed it clearly showed that he was desperate to get a wicket.
A veteran and workhorse at domestic level playing for Rajasthan and claiming more than 300 first class wickets, it would definitely have been disappointing for him to remain wicket-less and see his side lose the match by 266 runs.
Singh has been a prolific performer for Rajasthan in Ranji matches in the last few years and he had openly voiced his disappointment of not making the national side, despite taking wickets consistently and helping his team to reach the finals.
When the day finally came when he was selected for England tour, he saw ray of hope that hard-work always pays off, even if it sometimes comes late. Even though selectors picked him up, it was not going to be easy for him to be playing in the XI straight away.
Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami were the first choice seamers expected to play. Ishant’s ankle injury made way for Pankaj Singh to be selected for the third Test match at Southampton and it was a daydream come true for Pankaj to represent India at the highest level.
His disappointment of not getting picked for the national side, his consistent performances and good expectations might have hampered Singh to take wickets in the match, and it showed when he appealed for LBW against Bell. But it was not to be and his dream had an anti-climax.
Not every cricketer has a dream start to his career at the highest level. If he is successful then he should concentrate on being consistent, and if he failed to perform or live up to expectations, then he should be able to cope with it. I think Singh is experienced enough to handle such failure and disappointment because he has seen it all at domestic level.
It was heartening to see MS Dhoni supporting Singh’s efforts post match, saying overall he bowled well. That should be encouraging for Pankaj and he should get another game to showcase his skills.
Indian should carefully before making a decision on Singh as he needs full backing to perform well. If he is dropped for next game then it will be tough for Pankaj to regain his confidence, which could hamper his game and performance at domestic level.
Singh is 29 and should be serving the national side for a couple of years. It will be interesting to see how he will be handled by BCCI.


Tough test for India on South African tour

India will begin a three-ODI, two-Test series in South Africa tomorrow. While India has performed well at home against West Indies and Australia in 2013 it will be a different challenge on the hard and bouncy pitches of South Africa.
India can definitely give a good fight to South Africa in the ODIs as the visiting side is in good touch.
But I am more interested in watching how India performs in the two Tests against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
India will be playing for the first time overseas with newly formed batting lineup with Sikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane at the helm.
Dhawan and Vijay will first time face Steyn and company and it’ll be a tough test for the openers to prove that they have it in them to perform, not only on Indian pitches but also on foreign soil against a good pace attack.

Pujara at number three has played in the last series in South Africa and struggled to get going and score runs, so it will be interesting to see how he copes this time around.
The new number four will most probably be Kohli who has been in sublime form recently, scoring consistently, but he has also not played on South African pitches and it’ll be a huge challenge for him to maintain his form.
Rohit Sharma again has good opportunity to continue his form and it will be a good contest for him on bouncy and hard pitches.
In terms of the bowling attack, Zaheer Khan’s selection for tests was on expected lines considering his experience and also the fact that other bowlers don’t have much experience of playing on foreign soil.
So Zaheer has the task to not only spearhead the attack, but also guide youngsters like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav.
I would play Shami and Yadav as the pacemen in the lineup, as both of them have good pace which is needed to tackle strong South African batting lineup.
R Ashwin is likely to play in the spin department, and will be tested against good batsmen who play spin well.
He will have it tough considering his performance is not so great overseas.
This tour of South Africa is one of many overseas tour India will be playing and it will be a tough challenge for team India to come good and the players will be tested thoroughly against good bowlers and batsmens.
This will be a Test series definitely to look forward to.


What is the point of the India v West Indies series, other than Sachin’s farewell?

The West Indies v India series currently taking place in India is a made up series in order to give a memorable farewell in front of home crowd to Sachin Tendulkar.
Coming into this series, the Indian team was in very good form defeating Australia at home in high scoring series.
Going by India’s current form and batting line-up, the not-so-exciting series will be a no-contest between two teams and India is clearly looking favorite to win it 2-0.
India have very strong batting line-up including Shikar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and their bowling unit too has shaped up good.
Mohammed Shami almost single handedly crushed the West Indies batsmen with sharp reverse swing.
R Ashwin is difficult to handle if the pitch gives bounce and turn.

While the West Indies have quite a few experienced players in Chris Gayle, Dwane Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, they have to pull up their socks and bat with great determination to post any challenge to India.
Their bowling unit has few new faces but doesn’t look penetrating and capable of taking 20 Indian wickets.
They do have Keymar Roach who can bowl fast and trouble the batsmen, but his fitness is a concern.
India’s strong batting line-up plays exceedingly well against spin, so Shane Shillingford and Veerasammy Permaul have to bowl out of their skin to challenge Indian batsmen, which looks a distant dream.
This series will only be remembered as Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series, as there appears to be no contest on the field.


Do international cricketers know each other too well?

In the IPL, bowler Dale Steyn plays for Hyderabad along with India’s opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan. Both of them by now must have known each other’s strong and weak points while practicing in the nets.

When they come face to face while representing their respective countries at national level in tournament like Champions Trophy, they both already know how to handle or play a ball or bat.

This, to much extent dilutes the excitement and interest of the viewers who expects to have a good contest between a quality batsman and a world class attacking bowler.

Take an example of Keiron Pollard who plays for with Australia’s Mitchell Johnson.

Before every IPL match, they must have practiced and faced each other many a times in the nets, helping them to know how Mitchell bowls and how Pollard bats.

When they come up against each other in the Champions Trophy, they beforehand would know each other’s strong and weak points and would prepare accordingly. So while in the middle, it won’t be anything new. Also, there will not be a contest.

Dhoni, a smart captain, by now must have known the strength and weakness of Dwayne Bravo (new WI captain), Morne Morkel and Chris Morris. So it won’t be difficult for Dhoni to plan against these bowlers once they face each other in Champions trophy.

But does this detract from the game as a whole? The answer is yes and no.

Some smart players will really keep in mind the opponent’s skills and will prepare himself for each ball.

That’s the reason every player should always think out of the box and come out with new tactics while facing respective IPL team-mate, in a national tournament like the Champions Trophy.

This way, the contest between bat and ball will be more interesting that will eventually make the match more exciting.