Manish Pandey - The case for No. 4 spot

In 2017, Pandey has 125 runs from five matches, and save a couple of good knocks in Sri Lanka along with Sunday's supporting act, where his 32-ball 36 helped Pandya ( 78 off 72 balls) go bonkers at the other end, he doesn't boast a great record.

India's Manish Pandey hit a 32-ball 36 in the third ODI against Australia on Sunday.   -  PTI

India batsman Manish Pandey averaged an impressive 72, batting at No. 4 in ODIs in 2015-16, while notching up a match-winning 104 against Australia in Sydney. However, the 28-year-old has only batted thrice at that number this year and averages a paltry 13.

Therefore, when Hardik Pandya - India's new all-around sensation — walked out at No.4 ahead of Pandey in the third ODI against Australia on Sunday, the Karnataka batsman, struggling to keep his place in the side, could be forgiven for feeling hard done by.

In 2017, Pandey has 125 runs from five matches, and save a couple of good knocks in Sri Lanka along with Sunday's supporting act, where his 32-ball 36 helped Pandya ( 78 off 72 balls) go bonkers at the other end, he doesn't boast a great record.

Could this constant chopping and changing in the batting order have contributed to the inconsistency?

Sanath Kumar, who has worked closely with Manish Pandey, believes the Karnataka batsman needs to be given more time to prove his worth.

 

Sanath Kumar, former Karnataka coach, who has worked closely with Pandey certainly thinks so. "They have to persist with him and give him opportunities consistently. Now what is happening is, they are changing his batting order, he's not sure about his place (in the squad), so that could be a reason," Kumar told Sportstar.

"My idea is once you recognise a talent, give him a fair run after which they'll definitely start doing well. I am 100 per cent sure he (Pandey) will start performing," he said.

Asked what sort of a batsman Pandey is, Kumar said, "He's someone who likes to build his innings but once he gets going, he can attack as well."

He substantiates it with an example from Karnataka's Ranji Trophy Super League Group B match back in 2009. "It was against Uttar Pradesh - that was Pandey's comeback game. On a green top, we were three down for 27. It was him and Rahul Dravid batting. At the end of the day's play, we were 5 for 372. Pandey was unbeaten on 194 and Dravid had got out for 97," he said.

Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid saw something special in Pandey that day. "I still remember what Dravid had said (after Pandey's knock)," Kumar said, adding, "'The shots he (Pandey) is playing; sometimes even I am getting tensed Sanath but the way he's batting, I can't tell him anything. He's finding the middle of the bat and is totally in control of his game. After a while, I just started enjoying it,' that's what Dravid said."

Kumar, who is currently the head-coach of Andhra Pradesh, recently ran into his ward at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. "I met him (Pandey) there. He sounded very confident. Also, he is coming out of injury — it takes a little time to get into that flow when you're recuperating. It's the same case with all the players," Kumar said.

"They have to persist with him and give him opportunities consistently. Now what is happening is, they are changing his batting order, he's not sure about his place (in the squad), so that could be a reason. My idea is once you recognise a talent, give him a fair run after which they'll definitely start doing well. I am 100 per cent sure he (Pandey) will start performing.” - Sanath Kumar, former Karnataka coach.

Reminiscing Pandey's unconventional pre-match rituals, Kumar said, "His way of preparing for a match is totally different from other players, who generally put their gear on and sit at one place, waiting for their turn.

"He was never like that. In one of the Ranji Trophy games just before going out to bat, he was fooling around with his team-mates when he noticed that my eyebrows needed trimming. He got scissors from the physio and did it himself."

Syed Kirmani, who was the chief selector at the time, didn't approve of it. "He (Kirmani) saw this and was very angry. He told me, 'Sanath, you should ask him (Pandey) to focus. How can you allow him to be like that?' I told him, Kiri (Kirmani) he's like that, so he's different.

"Then suddenly, someone got out and Pandey ran into bat and finished the day's play with 100 plus against his name. That's how he was," Kumar said.

And when Kirmani finally had his way, things didn't quite go according to the script. Kumar said, "After that, in one of the games, Kiri (Kirmani) asked Pandey to pad up and focus on walking out to the middle. He did that and when his turn came - second ball, he gave a catch and came back."

He added, "Pandey is a different kind of person. He loves challenges — even with the State team, when we're under pressure he performs.

"During fielding drills, he'll push you to give him tough catches. Before walking out to the middle, he'll tell you 'Sir, I'll come back with two brilliant catches or one run-out'. He'll never compromise on his practice but he's different."

The middle-order batsman had a barnstorming start to his career when he became the first Indian to score a century in the IPL. An India call-up, though, only came in 2015. Since then, he has played all of 16 games. Does he stand a chance to don Test whites for India in the future? Kumar expresses optimism. "Definitely, he can break into the Test squad - he has the potential," he signed off.

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