Ishwar Pandey casts his eyes over the largely dry Kathajodi river with vast stretches of sand and the majestic bridge over it. The setting is serene.

But then, his mind is in turmoil. It is asking him tough questions. And he cannot come up with logical answers.

The 26-year-old paceman from Madhya Pradesh, said to Sportstar, said, “Unless performances are recognised, the domestic tournaments will lose context. It will become hard for cricketers to find motivation.”

These were strong words from a mild-mannered seamer.

“Jalaj Saxena (Pandey’s Madhya Pradesh team-mate) was voted the best all-rounder in Ranji Trophy for 2014-15 by the BCCI and received the award this year. All-rounders are so valuable yet he did not get picked by any team in the recent IPL auction. It can be demoralising,” said Pandey.

Pandey, a lanky bowler who has a knack of hitting the seam and extracting bounce around off-stump, has been on three journeys with the Indian team; a full Test and ODI campaign in New Zealand, a Test tour of England and the Asia Cup ODI competition in Bangladesh, but is yet to make his India debut.

Giving his heart out

Among the most consistent performers in the domestic circuit — he has 165 wickets in 46 first class matches at 26.37 — Pandey has also made his presence felt in the few opportunities he received in tour games in New Zealand and England.

“Sometimes, I wonder what more I have to do to play for India. You bowl your heart out in domestic cricket, do your bit in the tour games and then next season someone comes out of nowhere and plays for India. You find yourself out of the team without getting an opportunity, go back to where you had started. It is hard,” Pandey confessed.

He is a soldier’s son — Pandey’s father Subedar Major Surendra Prasad Pandey is his inspiration — and keeps fighting back.

The Man of the Match in the recent Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Bengal in Mumbai with an eight-wicket match haul, Pandey will be the lynchpin of his team’s attack in the semifinal against Mumbai beginning here on Saturday.

“There was some movement for the pacemen. I got my outswinger going. I removed Manoj Tiwary with an away going delivery and then trapped Wriddhiman Saha leg-before with a ball that came back,” he recalled. These were game-changing strikes.

Pandey is keen to catch up with his idol Glenn McGrath at Chennai’s MRF Pace Foundation. “I have learnt so much from him, about control and consistency,” Pandey said.

Right now, his priority is to win the Ranji Trophy for Madhya Pradesh.

“We are in the semifinals after a long time. We want to make it count. This is our captain Devendra Bundela’s 20th year in the Ranji Trophy. The team wants to do it for him.”

Beneath Pandey’s calm exterior lies a fierce competitor.