When Manish Pandey scored a scintillating century on the bouncy track at SuperSport Park in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2009, it appeared a new star of the game had taken birth. The 19-year-old became the first Indian ever to score a century in the IPL that day.
But disappointment awaited the fans who were eager to see Pandey don the Indian jersey. He had to wait another six years to get his India cap. The indifferent form that he displayed in the IPL during this interval might well have contributed to this.
Manish Pandey got his first national call-up in October 2014 when the squad was announced to face the visiting West Indies side in a one-off T20I. However, the visitors dramatically pulled out of the tour midway and the wait continued for Pandey. His moment finally came when India toured Zimbabwe in 2015. He finally made his ODI debut at the Harare Sports Club against Zimbabwe and played a mature knock of 71.
That innings earned him a place in the Indian squad which traveled to Australia in 2016. He scored a match-winning century at the Sydney Cricket Ground, enabling India to avoid a whitewash. It felt like India had found a quality batter at the No.4 position in ODIs.
But much like what happened after his century in the IPL, runs started drying up in the international arena for Pandey. Over the three years that followed the century at the SCG, Pandey scored just 289 runs in ODIs at an average of 29 with a solitary half-century against Sri Lanka. The series of lackluster performances never allowed the Karnataka batter to cement his position in the national side.
It has been a struggle in ODIs for Manish Pandey
If we look at the figures for the last three years, the Karnataka batter has the lowest average among the Indian batters who have batted in the mid-overs. Only Dinesh Karthik's strike rate is worse than Pandey's among batters who have batted in at least five matches.
Pandey hasn’t played an innings of note during this time. The last half-century that we saw off his bat was way back in August 2017 against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Stadium.
Pandey's average in the last three years is also among the lowest when compared to the middle-order batters in the top nine ODI teams.
If we look at the players with an average less than that of Pandey, we will find that almost all of them (except for Asif Ali and Oshada Fernando) contribute with the ball as well for their sides. Pandey is among the few 'pure' batters on the list.
Manish Pandey has had his struggles in T20s as well
Pandey has not fared a lot better in the T20Is either. His batting average of 44 is among the best in T20I cricket, but the batting average can be misleading when it comes to the shortest format of the game.
After starting at No.4 in his initial T20I burst, the 31-year-old has batted at 5 or lower in the last 4 years. This has resulted in a significant percentage of innings where he has remained not out, resulting in a higher average.
If we look at the absolute numbers, Manish Pandey has scored just 79 runs in 33 innings that he has batted for India. But more importantly, the strike rate is hovering just above 126. For a batter who has batted predominantly during the second half of the innings, such a strike rate is below-par at best.
This hasn’t been the case for Pandey in T20Is alone. His inability to rotate the strike and find boundaries regularly has come under scrutiny over the years. Pandey’s strike rate has consistently hovered around the 130 run-mark, sometimes going well under it, during the last five IPL seasons.
Hence, the issues plaguing Manish Pandey goes much deeper than just the irregular opportunities he has received to represent India.
Manish Pandey might just have played his last game for India
There might be plenty of reasons behind the inconsistent run that Manish Pandey has had at the top level. No one can deny the fact that he hasn’t been given a prolonged run in either ODIs or T20Is. But it is also true that Pandey hasn’t taken advantage of the chances that he has received.
There has never been an acute shortage of batting talent in India. Right now there are many young contenders for the middle-order spots and it is difficult for the selectors to give Pandey a long rope.
The tour to Sri Lanka was probably the last change for Manish Pandey. But he ended up with scores of 26(40), 37(31) & 11(19) in the three matches, not making any impact in the series.
Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul are more or less certain to come back into the fray when India play an ODI next. Suryakumar Yadav, though not much younger than Manish Pandey, has made a name for himself and is expected to be considered for that middle-order slot. If you add Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya to the mix, the picture becomes bleaker for the Karnataka batter.
As it stands, we may not be wrong in concluding that Manish Pandey has had his run at the international level for India. Nothing short of something exceptional happening will result in him getting a recall.