Rajasthan have had a fairytale journey in the ongoing Ranji Trophy. First, they qualified for Super League from Plate and then, knocked hot favourites Mumbai out of the country’s premier domestic competition. And now, they are in the finals!
One man who can take the credit for achieving this extraordinary act for Rajasthan is none other than their tall paceman Pankaj Singh. Singh, who was left out of the Indian team after his debut match couple of months back, took 6 wickets in Mumbai’s first innings to break the back of one of the strongest batting orders in India. His big hearted efforts have earned him as many as 41 wickets so far and made him the highest wicket-taker in this year’s Ranji season.
In an exclusive interview with Zeecric.com’s Biswajit Jha, the lanky pacer reveals the secrets of his and his team’s performance so far.
What are the main reasons of your superb performance this season (2009-10 season)?
Nothing special as such. I just worked hard before the start of this season which paid rich dividends for me.
What are the technical changes you made in your game?
To be very honest, I made no changes in my bowling technique. I have just kept the ball in right areas, stuck to a nagging line and length. No one ever pointed out any technical flaw in my bowling.
Have you talked to any seniors in recent past regarding your bowling?
Zaheer gave me few suggestions to improve my pace and swing. I had a pretty good session with Team India bowling coach Eric Simons when we toured Zimbabwe a few months ago.
Rajasthan have played superb cricket so far. Reaching Elite Division from Plate and then beating Mumbai in quarters…How did you people turn things around?
Several things helped Rajasthan this season. We hired three professionals…Aakash Chopra, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Rashmi Ranjan Parida who are very experienced guys and are in very good form. Aakash bhai scored a brilliant triple ton, skipper Kanitkar slammed some big hundreds. Apart from them, all the batsmen contributed really well. Vineet Saxena, Robin Bist- all came into the party at different matches which helped us post big totals in most of the matches.
In the bowling department, I got a great very good support from the other end after Dipak Chahar’s inclusion into the side. He gave us a great start against Hyderabad which set the tone for rest of the season. He has been a great help. He gave me the support which I earlier lacked. Now we can go for the wickets with other bowlers doing the containing job.
On top of it, we gelled well as a team. The team bonding helped us enjoy our game.
Had you ever dreamt of beating Mumbai before the match?
Though we came pretty close to beating them on a few occasions before, we never beat them. So it was an important match for us. Everybody wants to beat Mumbai because they are the champion team.
Do you think your performance against Mumbai has brought you into the limelight once again?
It definitely helped. People would have downplayed my performances had I got wickets against the smaller teams. But taking wickets against Mumbai is a great feeling. I hope selectors have definitely noticed my performance against them.
You were selected to tour Down Under in 2008 but never got any chance to represent India. And again you made your debut against Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe and after just one match, were suddenly left out. Don’t you think the selectors were a little harsh on you?
I did not play a single match in Australia. Fortunately, I made my debut against Sri Lanka in ODIs when selectors decided to rest some senior bowlers. But I could not perform well in that match. In the future, whenever I get a chance I want to perform so that I can cement my place in the team.
Some cricket experts say you lack pace to sustain in international cricket. Do you agree with them?
I don’t think so. Show me one bowler in India who constantly hits 140 kmph. I am basically a swing bowler and I bowl around 130 kmph which, I think, is not bad. Praveen Kumar does not have great pace but he is doing so well in ODIs. So it’s not only pace which determines you as a bowler.
You should be disappointed after selectors did not choose you for 30-men probable list…
Not really. I know if I keep performing, I will definitely get a chance to represent my country again after the World Cup.