Exclusive Akash Pandey: Former Bengal U19 star is inspired by Sarfraz Khan's journey, takes 9/71 against Goa in Ranji Trophy

In a week where Jalaj Saxena's nine-wicket haul against Bengal made all the headlines, former Bengal U-19 star Akash Pandey took 9/71 against Goa in the Ranji Trophy 2024.

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Koushik Biswas
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Exclusive Akash Pandey: Former Bengal U19 star is inspired by Sarfraz Khan's journey, takes 9/71 against Goa in Ranji Trophy

Akash Pandey took 9/71 vs Goa for the Railways team in the ongoing Ranji Trophy 2023-24.

Akash Pandey, born and brought up in Kolkata, West Bengal, is now making his name in Indian domestic cricket with some great performances for the Indian Railways team. Akash rose to fame after taking 9 wickets in an inning against Goa in the ongoing Ranji Trophy 2024 season and has already taken 28 wickets in 6 games so far this season. After his historical 13 wicket-haul in the game against Goa, Akash shared his thoughts with Sportz Point in an exclusive interview.

Akash Pandey was touted to be one of the prospects for Bengal after he helped Bengal win the 2016-17 Cooch Behar Trophy and then was part of the U-23 teams as well that were successful in the following years. However, as he was looking for a smooth entry into the Bengal senior team, Shahbaz Ahmed's presence in the team halted that. Though he was asked to be a net bowler and be with the Bengal team, Akash looked for opportunities to showcase his talents.

Soon, he joined the Indian Railways team and is now playing his third season in the Ranji Trophy. Along with Akash, Ananta Saha, Amit Kuila, Vivek Singh, Saurabh Singh and Kanishk Seth joined the Railways team looking for an opportunity in the first-class arena, but only Vivek, Saurabh and Akash were able to fix their spot in the team.

Akash first played in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in the 2021-22 season and then debuted in the Ranji Trophy in the same season against Puducherry in Chennai. Till now, he has featured in the 14 First-class games in the three seasons for Railways and has taken 63 wickets with an excellent average of 21.65 including 5 five-wicket hauls and 3 ten-wicket hauls.

"First-class arena is a tough place to be if we are not learning from every day and I feel with senior players in the team, I am learning a lot every day which has helped me settle in the Railways team," Akash told Sportz Point when asked about his transformation to senior cricket from underage cricket.

Though Akash still has lots of great friends from the Bengal team and they keep on congratulating him personally on his success, there has been no communication from Bengal team management even after some initial success, and he has found his new home in the Railways team.

"I wanted to have a better opportunity that is why I chose Railways. My club teams Mohun Bagan, Metro Rail, and even East Bengal team management congratulated me on my success, which feels great on a personal level," Akash expressed.

Also Read: Bengal Cricket: A tale of gloomy future and lack of actions

Since his debut, Akash has done exceptionally well for the Railways team but has gone under the radar. But that does not demotivate him since winning is the only thing he has learned to focus on since his early days in cricket.

"It does not matter where I am playing. I want to do well for the team. I want to help the team win in any way possible. So, I know what I have to do to help Railways win. And I feel, till the day I am doing that, I will be doing good for myself as well."

Akash's 9-wicket haul in the second inning against Goa was one of the instances where he just focused on winning the game for his team and achieved the best bowling figure of his career so far. In the matchweek where Jalaj Saxena's 9 wicket haul against Bengal made all the headlines, Akash's spell again went unnoticed.

"Look again, I was given the task to help my team win. I was doing that. We had to bundle them quickly to get the win. I was bowling well as well. So, in my mind, I never thought I would get that many wickets. But, yes, it feels good," Akash shared his feelings on his 9/71 against Goa.

Akash has been a fan of Bishan Singh Bedi since his childhood and started his cricket hearing all the stories about him from his father, who himself was a cricketer. From hearing Bedi's story to learning all the tricks from coaches like Kallo Sen and Pranob Nandy, Akash started growing as a spinner. However, he feels his bowling action is very similar to former India spinner Murali Kartik's bowling action, and he would love to spin his web just like him in the future.

Along with his bowling, Akash always was a handy batter down the order, and his 20.78 average with the bat for the Railways team speaks volumes for that. Though he feels he needs to get better at batting and help his team score more runs, he is confident that he can turn up with the bat for his team in any situation.

"I just hope to contribute to the team's success in every way possible. So, I score some runs down the order, that helps our bowling unit as well because we get more runs to bowl at as well."

In Indian Men's domestic cricket, Railways' players have always gone unnoticed despite doing well. Akash does not want to look at things in a negative way in that manner. He feels if he keeps on pushing the doors with his performance, he can play at the highest level from any team.

Taking inspiration from Sarfaraz Khan's journey, he said, "Look at Sarfaraz Khan, he has toiled hard to get the Indian cap. I am willing to do that as well. I believe what is supposed to happen will happen. So, I trust in God and do my bit on the field."

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