Home away from home

Home away Pacer Ishwar Pandey says flat wickets in South Africa made him feel like he was bowling in India.

New Delhi: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had planned ‘A’ team’s tour to South Africa to get the players accustomed to the conditions before the upcoming series against the Proteas later in the year. But as has been the trend with the host countries, South Africa dished out the flattest of tracks in the tri-series and the unofficial Test matches.

The tri-series featured the ‘A’ teams of India, South Africa and Australia while the two unofficial Tests involved India ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’.

It meant that India ‘A’ had quite a successful tour — winning the tri-series and drawing the two Test series 1-1 — but at the same time BCCI’s plan to help some of the top players acclimatise to the conditions flopped.

But one bowler who stood out and made everyone took note of his performance was Ishwar Pandey. He picked 11 wickets in the two unofficial Tests and scalped five wickets in the two matches he played in the tri-series.

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Often young pacers from India get carried away by the helpful conditions abroad and end up spraying the ball all over the pitch. But Pandey doesn’t want to take too much credit for doing well on his maiden overseas trip.

In fact, Pandey said that he never felt that he was bowling away from home.

“I had gone to South Africa, expecting to get bouncy tracks and a lot of help off it. But to my surprise, I soon realised that the wickets were flat and just like the ones we get to play in India. So there was really no question of trying too many things and I didn’t need to adjust too much. I just concentrated on swinging the red ball and maintaining a good line and length and the wickets kept coming,” he said.

Even though the players seem to be on cloud nine after the successful tour, Pandey was not reading too much into it. He has his feet firmly on the ground and said the first thing he learnt from the tour while playing against the budding cricketers from South Africa and Australia is that he needs to work on his pace.

“Bowling fast hasn’t been my forte. But I am looking to work on it. I do agree that one can’t just do with line, length and swing and needs to have a certain amount of pace to unsettle the batsmen. That is my aim for the upcoming season,” the 24-year-old said.

While ‘A’ tours generally provide the future stars of the country an opportunity to show their skills, this Indian team was filled with established international players. Pandey said it was an experience he will cherish.

“It was a great experience to share the dressing room with cricketers who have already made a name for themselves in the international arena. It really helps when you have people around you who can share their past experiences and you can learn just by listening to them. In fact, we gelled really well and the bonhomie is worth a mention. Every player was keen to help the other and there was no senior-junior divide. The results pretty much show how well we complemented each other,” he revealed.

Pandey might have been the highest wicket-taker in last year’s Ranji season, but the Madhya Pradesh pacer doesn’t want to think too much about it, going into the upcoming season.

“Doing well in the Ranji Trophy helped, but I don’t have some big goals for the next Ranji season. I want to take one game at a time and do well in the games that I get to play. Thinking too much about the future and setting big goals isn’t the way I function,” he signed off.

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