Manish Pandey: Holding the middle order together
Manish Pandey grabbed plenty of eyeballs when he became the first Indian to hit a century in IPL in 2009. He scored an unbeaten 114 off 73 balls against the now-defunct Deccan Chargers. However, he could only make his T20I debut after 6 years, in 2015, and it took him another three years to become an integral part of the team.
Pandey has been consistent in the ongoing Nidahas Trophy. In the first game against Sri Lanka, he walked in to bat when India were tottering at 9/2 in the second over, with big fishes Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina back in the hut. He stitched a 95-run partnership with the free-flowing Shikhar Dhawan (90 off 49) at the other end.
Although he could score only 37 off 35 balls, the partnership was pivotal in India’s innings.
In the next game against Bangladesh, he did finishing duties by scoring a 19-ball 27*. In the third match, he played a mature innings, an unbeaten 42 off 31 balls, which helped India win the match by 6 wickets.
Pandey has become a reliable middle-order batsman in T20Is of late. In 2018, he has scored 227 runs at an average of 113.50 and a strike-rate of 133.52. The numbers are staggering and more importantly, he has batted with a lot of responsibility. He has never looked like throwing away his wicket and has made the most of the starts he has got.
He has hit the purple patch now, but all was not well for him at the start of the year. He didn’t play a single ODI in South Africa and warmed the bench in the six-match series. Being in the squad and not getting chances in the playing eleven could take a toll on you. It did disappoint him and he had to consult a doctor because of the selection snub.
He got his first chance of the tour in the first T20I in Johannesburg on February 18 but he could only manage a sedate 27-ball 29*. Indian fans were, evidently, not satisfied with the batting effort.
In the second T20I in Centurion, he walked in when India were struggling at 45/3 in 5.3 overs. After the rebuilding face, Pandey cut loose in the 10th over and hit Tabraiz Shamsi for two sixes and a four. Just when Suresh Raina (31 off 24) and Pandey looked all set for a good partnership, the former departed.
Nevertheless, the Karnataka middle-order batsman continued attacking and didn’t allow the opposition to take advantage of Raina’s wicket. He scored a splendid 79 off 48 balls, including three sixes and six fours. He forged an unbeaten 98-run partnership with MS Dhoni (52 no. off 28) and guided India to a healthy total of 188-4 in 20 overs.
Even though India went on to lose the match, the innings helped Pandey regain his confidence. He has only had a single failure after that match. His scores since are 13, 37, 27* and 42*.
With key players like Virat Kohli and Dhoni rested for the Nidahas Trophy, India have a huge void to fill in the batting line-up. However, with consistent performances, Pandey has done well to hold the middle-order together.
He has done exceedingly well recently but is capable of doing much more. He puts a big price on his wicket and likes to bat through the innings.
Pandey is a big match player as well. Who could forget his Man of the Match performance in the 2014 IPL final against Kings XI Punjab? Chasing a target of 200, he made a stellar 94 off 50 balls and guided Kolkata Knight Riders to their second title.
India expect Pandey to continue his form in the upcoming Nidahas trophy final. Can he help India lift the trophy?
Note: This post is also published on Sportskeeda