The world might seem, at this point in time, clearly in awe of rising names like Smriti Madhana and Jemimah Rodriguez. And it’s not that hard to understand why. In a period of our lives that truly echoes our existential realities- fast-paced lives driven by deadlines and ruled by instant gratification- quick whips of the bat result in the highs, we seek to get better of boredom. Flashing batswomen have brought to this great sport of ours the familiar anticipation we seek from the male-driven sport where quick thuds and big shots change the outcome of a contest within seconds.
Shikha Pandey- the hope of Indian seam bowling unit
But it ought to be asked, at a time where much of Indian cricket is being ferried by the flashing willow of Smriti Mandhana and Rodrigues, are victories only being weaved by the abilities of batswomen? What about the bowling unit? If you were to give it a hard and close look, there’s some reason to worry.
Maybe in another year or two, the most dependable old-guard of India’s pace line-up- Jhulan Goswami- will bow out from the game. At 35, ODI cricket’s leading wicket-taker isn’t going to get any younger. So this leaves us to expect a world out of Shikha Pandey, one of Indian women’s side’s most dependable heads in the unit.
Shikha Pandey, the go-to fast bowler in the contingent
Having just turned 29, ever so quietly, a bit like the gentle turn back to the bowling crease having delivered a peach of a delivery, there’s hardly a doubt about the reputation and capability of Shikha Pandey. Although, if it were to be said, a lowly grim about why this thinking cricketer and the unabashedly passionate athlete doesn’t get written about a great deal?
Even as the reason may be etched in having played only 4 years of international cricket, Shikha Pandey’s absolute dedication to the craft of bowling and superior, gentle conduct in the game leaves no doubt about her approach.
The two most befitting images that capture the urgency of this mellow warrior in Harmanpreet Kaur’s side could begin with this being the first:
Shikha Pandey lying on the ground, distraught at having been run out during India’s (2017) World Cup loss to England in the finals.
Pained and lost for words, there was no solace whatsoever on Shikha Pandey’s face; just the feeling of being gutted. We all knew how much that win would’ve mattered to India, who played so valiantly to reach the finals.
The second image could be the celebration with the team having outplayed South Africa comprehensively in defending a modest 205, in the build up the 2017 World Cup, in the all-important qualifiers game.
In scalping her career-best figures of 4-34, it was Shikha Pandey Vs. South Africa
There’s never usage of a lot many words from Shikha Pandey, who bowls her heart out whether it’s a T20 contest or an ODI. There’s just the familiar sight of slashing the fist in celebration with the blue bandana, drenched in sweat, marking the forehead sporting relaxed lines on of one of cricket’s very original characters.
Why the right arm pacer matters?
In the little cricket that Shikha Pandey has played- 4 years to be precise, debuting in 2014- she’s made a place for herself as a bowler who’s not the easiest to score of. Among the rare reasons for India to celebrate in a strangely one-sided series loss to Australia (2018 ODIs), Pandey clinched 5 wickets from 3 games.
What casts her in a league of her own is that at a time where much of cricket’s contemporary fortunes are being carved by batswomen and their ebullience, it’s Shikha’s miserly turnouts with the ball that make the difference.
When was the last time you found an unrelenting modern cricketer with such immense simplicity as Shikha Pandey, who boasts of an economy of 6.8 in T20s and 4.01 in ODIs and yet, never wishes to bask in the glory of her efforts?