India vs England, 4th Test at Manchester: The curious case of Pankaj Singh and preview of Indian bowling attack
Pankaj Singh had a disappointing debut at Southampton © Getty Images
After a tough debut Test, Pankaj Singh perhaps might get one more chance unlike many other new Indian pacers who struggle early on. Abhijit Banare previews India’s bowling attack in the fourth Test and where does Pankaj stand in there.
When he was picked in the Indian squad for the tour of Engalnd, neither Pankaj Singh nor the team management were sure whether he would really play a single match on this tour or not. But because of Ishant sharma’s injury he did make it to the playing eleven. And when he eventually made it, everyone had words like ‘he is consistent’, ‘he knows how to toil for wickets’, ‘he is used to bowling on dead tracks’. But when he eventually ended up with nothing in his kitty, everyone sympathised with him. It’s tough to be in the world of Pankaj Singh these days.
However, the injury scare to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and unavailability of Ishant means that, Pankaj will be among the lucky ones to get another Test at least to prove his worth. On some other day, the Southampton would be a hazy memory for Pankaj which came and went in a flash. From a potentially forgotten pacer, this is his chance to shine. At Manchester, he will not only be a certainty but surely be sharing the new ball with Mohammed Shami.
It’s a well-discussed fact that, Pankaj didn’t bowl as poorly as the numbers reflect. And skipper MS Dhoni trusted him with the new ball and praised him at the post match as well. For the next Test, Pankaj will have to tie up his loose ends. After a tough first day at Southampton, he seemed to have given up. Manchester and possibly The Oval will be his best chance to impress and retain his place for the series ahead. A new ball means he has the best chance to pick up wickets early on.
Injuries: Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s availability is still isn’t confirmed. It seems unlikely that he will be part of the Test even if he stretches himself to get fit in time. Bhuvneshwar is a critical part of the Indian One-Day International team and they would prefer to have him for the entire tour than look at availability of one Test.
The selection conundrum remains with Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey. The black of experience will be wide open when the skipper if forced to make a choice between two relatively new pacers. Varun Aaron might edge out Ishwar Pandey in pace but the skipper has watched Ishwar closely playing for Chennai Super Kings.
What happens to Ravichandran Ashwin? : Dhoni has looked uncertain with his five bowlers strategy. Despite a win at Lord’s Stuart Binny was a forgotten man. Ashwin’s inclusion not only gives him the option of two spinners but can also be used as cover if the pace attack fails to live up to the expectations. India’s need for Ashwin is more than just a spinner. Jadeja’s gamble with aggression is not going to click all the time especially when spending time at crease weighs more than racing up the score. Ashwin is the man who is capable of it. In fact, a four-bowler strategy means, Ashwin should ideally replace the left-arm spinner. Jadeja allowed the captain to plug the flow of runs while Ashwin is a more attacking bowler. But Ashwin appears a sound all-rounder than Jadeja. It would also mean that Rohit Sharma retains his place down the order.
Overall, three pacers in Pankaj, Shami and one from Ishwar or Varun along with Ashwin seems a likely combination. Yet at the end of the day, the inexperience in the attack will be playing at the bacl of his mind and the new pacers will have a real challenge to deliver in the narrow window of opportunity.
Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)