This season, Rajasthan is set to lose one of its most prominent cricketers in the Ranji Trophy as its captain Pankaj Singh has signed up to play for Puducherry. A seasoned campaigner for Rajasthan, Pankaj signed the dotted lines with the Cricket Association of Puducherry on Wednesday evening and is looking forward to joining the camp soon.
Puducherry, the new entrant in the domestic circuit, has already roped in Mumbai stalwart Abhishek Nayar and Himachal Pradesh’s Paras Dogra as two professional players. And, it is learnt that Pankaj — who has featured for India in two Tests and an ODI — will be the third professional player for the season. His contract, however, will be for a year.
Confirming the development, Pankaj, who has played for Rajasthan for 14 years, told Sportstar that the decision was taken to ensure that youngsters got an opportunity to play Ranji Trophy for Rajasthan. “There are many young bowlers in the State and I did not want to block their way. Now, some of them will get more exposure,” Pankaj said.
However, sources close to the cricketer have indicated that despite being one of the consistent performers for the State, Pankaj was dejected as he was not even considered for national selection. “To be honest, I know that the chances of playing for India are very bleak now. So, I want to prove my mettle here for a new team. This way, I can even inspire a few youngsters,” Pankaj said.
Since 2014, Rajasthan has been playing at the domestic tournaments as Team Rajasthan and it is no different this time.
Having attended the trials for Team Rajasthan last week, Pankaj admitted the thoughts of changing teams weren’t new. “The turmoil has been on for a while. I stood by Rajasthan team in all the situations. But now, with limited options, I don’t want any youngster to accuse me of blocking his way,” he said.
‘Would love to come back’
Pankaj, however, would love to return to Rajasthan next season if things improve. “If things fall in place, I can come back. I would love to retire from Rajasthan,” he said.
While he is waiting for the No-Objection Certificate, Pankaj is already in regular contact with Nayar and Dishant Yagnik — Puducherry’s fielding coach. “We have played enough cricket together, so it is good to reunite,” Pankaj said.
Having served Rajasthan with distinction, the 33-year-old is now seeking new challenges in a new setting.
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