Until the 12th standard, Ishwar Pandey - son of a retired Subedar Major in the army - had no business with serious cricket, let alone fast bowling. But a chance visit to a selection trial changed his life forever, and with India call-up, the 6-feet-2-inch man from Madhya Pradesh has taken a giant leap.
Pandey, 24, has received maiden call to the Indian Test and ODI squads for the tour of New Zealand, but his journey began somewhat reluctantly in the school summer vacations of 2007 when he bowled at the trials of local divisional side Rewa and a few months down the line was playing for the MP under-19 side.
"It was just one of those things," Pandey told Cricinfo earlier this year. "I and a few friends decided to check out what the trial was about. Once there, aise hi jaake daal diya [I bowled casually) on a matting wicket."
But his casual stuff obviously caught the coaches' attention and then he went on to represent his state's U-19 team in no time. However, back home, cricket was not what Ishwar's father wanted his elder son to pursue as a profession. He wanted his sons to do well in academics. But Pandey's university coach was able to convince the ex-army man.
Pandey's under-19 stint didn't begin on a bright note as he was dropped the next season. But by now he had developed his love for the game to a level that made him work hard in divisional cricket and storm into the MP U-22 squad.
The tall pacer must thank former India and MP batsman Amay Khurasiya for being able to hone his stills at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. And Pandey admits that working at the Foundation has helped him improve his pace and fitness.
Though he doesn't bowl at express pace, Padey's height allows him to extract bounce from the pitch, which , combined with his speed in the mid 130s, makes him a difficult proposition..
Speaking to Times of India some time back, former India legspinner Narendra Hirwani said that Pandey is ready to represent India. "When I saw him two years ago, he looked an India prospect but now I say he is ready to play for the country. He is fitter, stronger and most importantly hungrier. He has it in him to have a long international career."
He was the highest wicket-taker in the last Ranji Trophy season, earning himself an opportunity to play for India A, bowl to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar in India nets and a contract with now-defunct Pune Warriors India. But the real test of his talent and nerves will begin now.
First Class: Matches 31, Wickets 131, Best 8/84, Avg 24.43, Strike Rate 50.7 List A: Matches 16, Wickets 22, Best 4/44, Avg 30.05, Strike Rate 38.0
In eight games in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season, Pandey has taken 30 wickets at 24.76, including his best of 8 for 84 against Railways.
(With inputs from Cricinfo)
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