Manish Pandey: The resurrection waiting to happen
With the 3-match T20 series against West Indies set to commence in Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, the debate regarding the constitution of India’s middle order has resurfaced yet again – this time in the shortest format of the game.
Now that MS Dhoni no longer seems to be in the scheme of things, the selectors have put their faith in the young Rishabh Pant and the veteran Dinesh Karthik as the two wicket-keeper batsmen for India. If one goes by what chief selector MSK Prasad had to say after the selection of the squad, it’s highly probable that both of them are going to be included in the playing XI. KL Rahul seems to be a certainty in the T20 format too.
That leaves the remaining middle order position to be decided between Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer. There would certainly be some temptation to try out Iyer who has shown tremendous form in the domestic season, especially in the just concluded Deodhar trophy. He is a stroke-maker and the kind of player India’s regular captain Virat Kohli usually prefers in the side.
But Kohli is rested for the West Indies series and his deputy Rohit Sharma has taken over captaincy for these three matches. Rohit’s captaincy style is distinctly different from that of Kohli.
He prefers solidity and maturity over flamboyance and youthful exuberance in his team selection. This was quite visible during his captaincy stint in the Asia Cup this year, where he kept selecting the more experienced Rayudu over Rahul, the stroke-maker, in his team. One does not know whether the same thing would have happened if Kohli were the captain. Probably not.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that captain Rohit resurrected Rayudu’s ODI career. Now, can he do the same for Manish Pandey too? Pandey has been a part of India’s larger squad quite often, only to be excluded from the playing XI, both in ODIs as well as T20Is. He was a part of India’s T20I squad in England and Ireland, but never got a chance to play.
His T20I records are not bad by any stretch of imagination. He has scored 515 runs in 21 T20I innings at a healthy average of 43 and a strike rate of 126. His terrific fielding is an added advantage.
All he needs is a little bit of faith shown in him by the captain. Let’s hope Captain Rohit gives Manish Pandey a chance to not only resurrect his T20I career but also stake a claim for a spot in India’s 2019 World Cup squad too!