Manish Pandey was destined for greatness. The first Indian centurion in the IPL was earmarked as one for the future. 12 years later, the Karnataka batsman is still struggling to nail his spot in the national side.
For all the gun fielding, the sublime timing in his strokes, and audacious power hits to clear the rope, Pandey has been perennially sidelined, primarily due to his inability to step up at crucial junctures.
While the statement may seem harsh for a man who has warmed benches more than be a part of the playing XI, the consistent inconsistency has done him in. This makes the upcoming limited series against Sri Lanka all the more important for Pandey. It's make or break, literally.
With the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav eager to grab their spots, the 31-year-old's first test is to nail a slot in the side and then make a case for himself in the tournament.
Is this Manish Pandey's only chance to cement his place?
Manish Pandey's scintillating and composed solitary ton against Australia in 2016 seems like a flash in the pan. Again, would that be an unfair statement to make considering he was a victim of constant floating in the lineup? It could be.
That said, it should also be considered that he was given enough games to prove he was worth his salt.
In the 26 matches Pandey has played for India, he's scored 492 runs at an average of 35.14. Howstat shows he has been shuffled around No. 4, 5 and 6. At two drop and at six, Pandey averages 36.60 and 36.20, which shows he has the potential to bat in the middle and shepherd the lower order.
Irfan Sait, his coach during his early days, opined that a slot in the middle order would suit Pandey better.
“As a junior, he (Manish Pandey) was always opening the batting. But given the scenario in senior cricket, and the Karnataka side, he has been fantastic at No. 3, 4 and 5. (Batting) at No.4 would be ideal, but he is good at any one of these positions," said the coach.
Pandey has spent considerable time on the sidelines. He was a notable absentee when India played England earlier this year, and last donned the Indian blue in December 2020 in the first T20I against Australia. His last ODI was against New Zealand in February 2020.
Pandey's performances in the intra-squad simulation games show he's carried his IPL 2021 form to the island nation. He made a fifty in the practice skirmish and by the looks of it, his experience will earn him a spot in the series. However, one question lingers: Can Manish Pandey make it count?
There's no doubt that he will play enough games to make the cut. Only time will tell whether Manish Pandey rectifies his mistake of not converting starts and not finishing games.