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When India went into the final One-day international in Wellington on Friday, they had nothing to play for. The series had already been decided and with the bowling unit having failed, it presented an opportunity to give Ishwar Pandey and Amit Mishra a go.
The failure of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to take wickets in the middle overs was anyway adding extra pressure on the already struggling pace bowlers. However, skipper MS Dhoni said after the 87-run defeat that Ashwin was preferred over Mishra because his superior batting at No 8 would have come handy if India had gone close to the target.
"We wanted Ashwin's batting. In that one game that was a draw (tie), his batting really came into action. That was the reason why it went on for a draw. That is why we back Ashwin."
When it came to Pandey, the skipper said he still had some distance to go before becoming an international bowler. This despite the likelihood of the tall bowler, who has good upper body strength and who uses his shoulder well, could have made an impression. Besides, Pandey, who topped the wicket charts in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy series, had impressed with India A on the tour of South Africa last year.
"Not Ishwar, we thought we will need to work slightly more upon him. But he has got some exposure to international cricket. We are working on him."
It can get really lonely for players left on the fringes during a tour, especially when hope rises and falls after others don't cash in on the opportunities.
Rohit Sharma, leading at the Cobham Oval in the two-day game against a New Zealand XI, brought Pandey on as third change, after it was initially given that Pandey won't play.
He impressed straightaway, pitching it up consistently on the off-stump corridor. He got good carry but only in his second spell did he even try the short-pitched delivery. His first two wickets came in the space of 12 deliveries with movement off a good length forcing Henry Walsh and Tim Seifert, the NZ U-19 wicketkeeper, to nick it.
Pandey, included in both the ODI and Test squads, was happy with the hard work he had put in in the national set-up. "My mindset was, whenever I bowled, bowl to a good line and bowl good balls. I don't try to bowl to take wickets. I try to bowl in the good areas." Once he did that, the wickets took care of themselves. Talking to Zaheer Khan was also a help.
Was he frustrated not to play an ODI? "Not frustrated at all. It is a team decision and all the bowlers in our team are good."
Soon after the day's play, Pandey also came out with Ishant Sharma to bowl on a side pitch, with bowling coach Joe Dawes constantly talking to him. Even if he is not in line for a Test call up so soon, it was an excellent first impression for the national side.