Manish Pandey will always be remembered as the first Indian to score a century in the Indian Premier League.
Manish Pandey will always be remembered as the first Indian to score a century in the Indian Premier League. In just one night, the then 19-year-old Bengaluru boy went from being Karnataka’s next big thing to entering the record books for his remarkable 114 off 73 to propel the Royal Challengers Bangalore into the knockouts of the 2009 edition. While the Indian Test team prepares itself for the fourth and deciding Test against England starting on August 30, an out-of-favour Pandey is making a strong case for a comeback to the limited overs side.
Leading India B in the ongoing quadrangular series, the 28-year-old, scored 306 runs without being dismissed once in four matches. His scores – 95* vs South Africa A, 21* vs India A, 117* vs Australia A and 73* vs Australia A were crucial in his team’s win in all the four matches. As India’s hunt for its number 4 is still on with less than a year left for the ICC ODI World Cup, Pandey has hit the purple patch at the right time.
Suresh Raina had a poor tour of England while Dinesh Karthik failed to seal his place in the team albeit in the Tests. Kedar Jadhav will be resuming play after a four-month-long rehab from a hamstring injury. Shreyas Iyer who is leading the India A in the tournament has made scores of 4, 20, 7 and 67 – which won’t be good enough to grant him a place in the playing XI.
KL Rahul has had problems of his own even as captain Virat Kohli has tried to fit him at every slot possible. The Indian team is set to participate at Asia Cup next year in September and Pandey could not have timed his surge any better.
He was not included in the limited-overs series (but was part of the T20 side, strange!) in England after a horror show in the IPL. With Sunrisers Hyderabad, he scored 284 runs at a strike rate of 115.44 which was not usual to what he is known for. The only overseas cricket he has played in the recent times was two T20Is in Ireland.
Pandey in the shorter formats of the game has a habit of starting slow and building up the innings. But once he is past that safe mark, he becomes a monster. Playing unorthodox shots, fans get to see his trademark short-arm jabs off the front foot to send the ball gliding behind point more often.
One thing that the selection committee gave him in his early days of senior-level cricket was time to settle. And boy did it pay off. The Bengalurian batsman despite making his debut in 2015 scored his maiden ODI hundred in Sydney in 2016 under MS Dhoni (captain) and Anil Kumble (coach). But with the World Cup nearing and a paradigm shift in the squad — Virat Kohli (captain) and Ravi Shastri (coach), he has not had that luxury anymore. He has been played everywhere from No.4 to No.7 positions.
So the question that remains is will his performance in the quadrangular series be enough to slate his comeback in India senior team.