India have chosen to persevere with much-maligned pace bowler Pankaj Singh, despite his woeful record against England.
Pankaj finally took his first two Test wickets in the fourth match at Old Trafford, dismissing Joe Root and Jos Buttler for 77 and 70 respectively.
However, prior to that, he bowled over 25 spells – and 416 balls - in Test cricket without one wicket.
Whether he has turned a corner remains to be seen, and despite a notable improvement, he could not prevent his side from succumbing to a defeat by an innings and 54 runs.
He was also one of six Indians to score a duck with the bat, clean bowled by Stuart Broad, though his team mates higher up the order were under far more scrutiny after a dreadful performance all round.
The 29-year-old was admittedly unlucky not to see the fruits of his labour in the third Test, with several catches dropped. He also had a number of appeals waved away, and is perhaps being hindered by his team’s rejection of the Decision Review System (DRS). Undoubtedly, he is not being helped by his fellow Indians’ poor fielding.
Fundamentally, Pankaj’s chief fault is that he has come into the India side at precisely the wrong time. A combination of MS Dhoni’s unnecessarily loud-mouthed captaincy and a more widespread defeatist attitude has not made for a healthy squad in which to make his debut.
He may lack confidence, having hit a barren streak just at the wrong time in his career. Nonetheless, as India stand, they have little choice but to place their faith in the struggling bowler, lacking options to replace him with.
Greater concerns for India
Any young debutant would face the same struggles as Pankaj, and perhaps without the same persistence. It is perhaps a small mercy that he has come into the Test side so late on in his career, as his unlucky streak will at least have slightly less of a long-term effect on his bowling approach.
The fifth and final Test at The Oval could ultimately be make or break for his international career. The scorecards of the series so far will make unwelcome reading – his was the most unsuccessful debut of any Test bowler ever – but that does not mean India should give up.
Rather, they must end their tour of England with far more spotlight on their failing batsmen, with Pankaj’s bizarre series a mere side story.
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