A year ago Shikha Pandey was unexpectedly left out of the Indian team and the pacer’s comeback for the T20 World Cup next month has also come out of nowhere, leaving her “pleasantly surprised”.
The 33-year-old last played for India on the tour of Australia in October 2021 and was an integral part of the team in the lead up to the 2022 ODI World Cup in New Zealand.
So, being dropped from the team came as a big setback but the former Indian Air Force officer found solace in getting back to the grind of domestic cricket where she excelled and got close with her Goa teammates.
Time spent with former Australia captain Belinda Clark Down Under also contributed immensely in her comeback bid.
With the selectors falling back on the experience of Shikha after testing a few youngsters, there will be additional pressure to perform but she is up for the challenge.
“I try to take one day at a time. Short term goals help me a lot. There is always pressure to perform and I am hoping I am better equipped this time around.
“I did well in the domestic circuit this season and was happy with how I was going. I got a very positive feedback from my coaches at Zonals and challengers. Yeah I was pleasantly surprised,” the 33-year-old told PTI.
Shikha is at the NCA in Bengaluru along with her India teammates and will be leaving for South Africa on January 11. The World Cup will be preceded by a tri-series involving India, West Indies and hosts South Africa, beginning January 19.
The experienced fast bowler forced her way into the Indian team after a stellar domestic season in which she picked up 20 wickets in 16 games at an average of 13.45.
Besides the support of her family, Shikha said her Goa teammates helped her tide over the tough times.
“I have always loved coming back and playing for my state side. Even when I wasn’t away on international duties, I would never miss a chance to play alongside my state team mates.
“I have some close friends in the team and the bond just got stronger. We have some absolute superstars in Goa side and I can’t wait for them to make it big in future.” Without naming them, Shikha said she was in touch with a few India teammates during her time away from the national side.
A booming inswinger to clean up Australia opener Alyssa Healy during the 2021 tour was rated as the “ball of the summer” and Shikha would be expected to land a lot of those inswingers in South Africa.
Bringing the ball back into the right hander is Shikha’s biggest strength and she wants to maintain that consistency.
“I have worked hard to hit those lengths consistently and stay in the moment- attitude (in the last 12 months).” Did her time on the sidelines make her a better cricketer and a better person? “I have always believed hard work doesn’t go waste and the situations you are put in don’t define you but the decisions you take to deal with them do.
“My family, well wishers, coaches, support staff and administration at GCA and my state team mates. All their help was massive (when I was not part of the team),” Shikha added.