After lean patch, Pandey back in comfort zone

Not only did Manish Pandey pace his innings to perfection – taking his time at the beginning and then finishing it with a late flourish – but the fact that it came against one of the best bowling units in the tournament would augur well for the batsman and the Knight Riders.

Manish Pandeyplays a shot against Mumbai Indians on Sunday.   -  AFP

At the start of the India’s long home season of international cricket, Manish Pandey was a near-certainty in India's team in blue. His match-winning hundred in Sydney against Australia to help India overhaul a stiff target of 331 at the start of 2016 had given a glimpse of abundant talent and uncanny ability to take the game away from the opposition.

Cut to April 2017 and as the Indian Premier League remained the final fling ahead of India’s squad selection for the Champions Trophy, Pandey entered the T20 frenzy with his place in the squad for the ICC event far from certain. On Sunday night, in his first batting stint in the Kolkata Knight Riders colours this year, Pandey made a statement with a trademark, unbeaten knock of 47-ball 81 to make a strong case for retaining his place in the squad.

Following a lacklustre outing in the five ODIs against New Zealand last October, Pandey may have lost his place to veteran Yuvraj Singh for the ODIs against England earlier this year. However, his place in the squad isn’t yet sealed with Dinesh Karthik in full flow with the willow in domestic cricket, especially in the white-ball leg.

Not only did Pandey pace his innings to perfection – taking his time at the beginning and then finishing it with a late flourish – but the fact that it came against one of the best bowling units in the tournament would augur well for the batsman and the Knight Riders. Moreover, it was pleasing that Pandey continued to back himself despite little support from the other end.

“It was definitely satisfying. From where I started, I wanted to finish how I finished today. I was just taking it one ball at a time, one over at a time. Even talking to the next batsman whoever was coming,” Pandey said. “That's what I did and eventually it was important for me to stay at least until the 19th over, or the 20th over. That’s where I can play my game and finish matches at ease.”

With a big question mark of Chris Lynn's availability for the tournament after the opener hurt his shoulder while attempting a diving catch running backward to dismiss Robin Uthappa, the Knight Riders would be hoping for Pandey to keep his form going. If he can do that, he would also end up salvaging his place in India's squad.