An open letter to Pankaj Singh
Pankaj Singh went wicket-less in his debut match, but impressed with his bounce and intensity © Getty Images
Despite putting up an excellent performance at Southampton, Pankaj Singh went wicketless and returned the worst-ever figures (nought for 179) on Test debut. Abhishek Mukherjee puts himself in the shoes of a few ex-cricketers who sent him a letter.
We have seen you bowl at The Ageas Bowl last week. You were (we want to insert an adjective here, but we thought you may be scandalised) brilliant in both innings. You ran in hard, bent your back, hit the deck, extracted bounce, and bothered the hosts on a pitch where your seniors paled in comparison.
When MS Dhoni had announced at the toss that Ishant Sharma — the man who came as a rude shock at Lord’s to expose the English inadequacy to handle bounce — had been ruled out, for once in the past six years they uttered the phrase “Ishant will be missed.”
Then they picked you. You could have made your debut in Australia five years earlier, but it was the same Ishant — who had burst onto the scene with those spells to Ricky Ponting during the series — who had kept you out. From what we have seen, you would have been more than a handful on those bouncy tracks.
Southampton offered you almost nothing from the pitch, and yet you managed to extract life from it. These will keep happening to you. Be prepared. We have all been through this on our rather forgettable debuts. All of us had terrible starts to our Test careers. Do you know what we did later in our careers?
One of us (the West Indian who speaks in a deep baritone) had taken 14 on a flat track at The Oval and had unleashed what is widely recognised as the “Greatest Over Ever Bowled” to a great opener.
Two others (the Pakistani swing merchants) were the earliest exponents of reverse-swing in international cricket have had ridiculous spells of five for three or seven for one or more ridiculous.
Another (the one contributing from The Other World) went on to lead England, was Knighted, and has a stand at Lord’s named after him.
As for the Aussie with the slinging action, he hit the Englishmen so hard with raw pace — physically and otherwise — that The Ashes was gone by the time they realised.
The Kiwi bowled fast as well, and often lifted himself beyond his abilities; he was a destructive batsman as well, and had he not been injury-prone, he would have emerged as one of the finest in history.
As for the remaining pair, they are still the highest wicket-takers among seamers from their respective countries, and will continue to remain the same for some time now.
You see, a bad debut with the ball means nothing to us fast bowlers. We keep on bouncing back (sorry for the pun).
Members of the Wicketless on Debut Club
Gubby Allen (nought for 115 on debut)
Sarfraz Nawaz (nought for 78 on debut)
Imran Khan (nought for 55 on debut)
Jeff Thomson (nought for 110 on debut)
Michael Holding (nought for 127 on debut)
Chris Cairns (nought for 60 on debut)
Heath Streak (nought for 117 on debut)
Chaminda Vaas (nought for 80 on debut)
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)