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Ishwar Pandey could be one for the big stage

This year is turning out to be an eventful one for Ishwar Chand Pandey. From ending the Ranji Trophy season as the highest wicket-taker (48 in eight matches), to a nightmarish Indian Premier League (IPL) debut, followed by a memorable India ‘A’ series, Pandey has already experienced considerable highs and lows.

Ishwar Chand Pandey
Rest of India’s Ishwar Chand Pandey warming up ahead of the Irani Trophy match vs Mumbai at Wankhede Stadium earlier this year. Pic/Suresh KK

Pandey, who turned 24 on August 15, will have some pleasant memories to take back from the South Africa ‘A’ tour. In his limited overs debut against the hosts, Pandey claimed four for 76 from nine overs as India won by 39 runs. In his maiden unofficial four-day Test, Pandey finished with a memorable seven-wicket haul in India’s thumping win at Rustenburg on Tuesday.

Joy short-lived
The joy of topping the wickets chart in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season was short lived, as Pandey was in for a rude shock on his IPL debut. The Pune Warriors India pacer was one of the bowlers who bore the brunt of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Chris Gayle, conceding 33 runs off two overs, as the mighty West Indian smashed a record-breaking 175 not out at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in April.

Four months later, the Madhya Pradesh pacer is on firm footing after a terrific performance in South Africa. Former India batsman Praveen Amre, one of the coaches at Pune Warriors India, said Pandey would emerge stronger after experiencing harsh realities of the game early on in his career.  “That is how cricket is. It can be cruel at times.

It is important to note that he is learning from every experience. When you get whacked like that in your (IPL) debut game, it is demoralising. But he kept his confidence high. He asked for another opportunity and got a wicket in his next match (1-17 against KKR at Ranchi). He is a strong character. He did not get much opportunity with Pune as our all-rounder slots were already decided,” Amre said.

Former India batsman Amay Khurasiya, who was instrumental in grooming Pandey by sending him to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, felt the medium-pacer is ready for international cricket. “Someone who has taken 48 wickets in a Ranji season needs more opportunities at the highest level. We need to give him chances when he is at his best,” said Khurasiya, who heads the Indian board’s academy in Indore.

Matter of trust
Khurasiya recalled how he had a tough time convincing the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) selectors and officials to give Pandey a look-in. “Nobody had heard about Pandey as he had not played any of the age-group tournaments. I urged the selectors to have a look at him. But nobody agreed.
I also met the secretary. After a lot of persistence, they (selectors) finally agreed. He picked up four wickets in his first trial match.

He was given another opportunity and was impressive again. I am glad the MPCA trusted me and he was included in the MP U-22 team despite not being in the probables,” Khurasiya said. Khurasiya believes Pandey can be an asset to any team. “He can generate pace, but I would advise him to stick to bowling around 130-140kmph. His action is so rhythmic that he can carry the workload for a long time without getting injured.

“He is a natural talent and a consistent performer. He hails from a small town (Rewa) and is far more committed and hungry for success than players from big towns and cities,” Khurasiya, a member of India’s 1999 World Cup team, signed off.  

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