“Records and statistics don’t really excite me. Eventually, it’s the number of matches that you win for your team that counts,” Pankaj Singh deadpans to the point of almost sounding cliched while talking about his cricketing philosophy.
Over the course of his 14-year first-class career, the tall, sinewy fast bowler has several milestones to his credit. On Wednesday, the 33-year-old walked into the record books yet again, when he prised out seven wickets on the opening day to help Puducherry dismantle Mizoram for a below-par score of 92.
In doing so, Mizoram became the 17th team against whom Singh has taken a five-wicket haul in Ranji Trophy. He thus overtakes former India and Karnataka spinner, Sunil Joshi, who had accomplished this feat against 16 teams. Overall, Singh has 27 five-wicket hauls from 112 games so far, putting him way down in the list of bowlers with the most five-wicket hauls in Ranji Trophy, which is headed by Rajinder Goel with whopping 59 five-fors.
But Singh is the bowler with five-fors against most teams in the domestic circuit. This is a stat that will be the most definitive indicator of the kind of irresistible consistency levels, which he has managed to achieve. In many ways, it’s also a tribute to his remarkable fitness levels, and his unflinching never-say die attitude. All these attributes have won him several admirers, most of whom are players from the opposition teams. The most famous among them being Yuvraj Singh, who had once famously hailed him as “the best fast bowler in first-class cricket.”
More than these numerical nuggets, that was one compliment that had brought a smile on his face. “Are you sure he has said this? If so, then it’s the best compliment that I have got,” he had queried.Before the start of this Ranji season, Singh, after much deliberation, made the shift to newbies Puducherry, after having spent 14 fruitful years with Rajasthan. For Singh, the move was pragmatic.
“I have been playing non-stop for Rajasthan over the last 14 years. But now, the team has an impressive arsenal of fast bowlers such Deepak Chahar, Khalil Ahmed, Aniket Chowdhury and Nathu Singh. So, if I had continued another season, I would be holding the spot of one of these fast bowlers, which I think would be unfair. So, I decided to move to a new team to help them gain experience and be competitive,” he had told The Indian Express.
The change in the dressing-room environment is working wonders. He continues to pick wickets with the same kind of zeal. More than anything, it has also helped him don the mentor’s hat with elan, helping the team of upstarts find their way in their debut season. For Singh, the move to a smaller team has given him the requisite motivation to keep toiling away, and this record is just another indication that he’s far from done yet.
Brief Scores:Mizoram 92; 54.4 overs (Michael Lalremkima 25; Pankaj Singh 7/21) vs Puducherry 163/3; 33 overs (Vikneshwaran Marimuthu 79 batting)