There is pressure, admits Manish Pandey

Since his match-winning hundred at the Sydney Cricket Ground 20 months ago, Manish Pandey has struggled to live up to expectations. He endured a difficult five-match series at home against New Zealand, carried the drinks during all three ODIs over England as India preferred Yuvraj Singh, and missed the Champions Trophy with injury.

Manish Pandey and Virat Kohli play a game of football at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday.   -  G. Sampath Kumar

Since his match-winning hundred at the Sydney Cricket Ground 20 months ago, Manish Pandey has struggled to live up to expectations. He endured a difficult five-match series at home against New Zealand, carried the drinks during all three ODIs over England as India preferred Yuvraj Singh, and missed the Champions Trophy with injury.

READ: Stoinis looks at the positives despite series loss

He was in fine form leading India-A in South Africa last month, and made an unbeaten half-century in Sri Lanka a couple of weeks later, but this series against Australia has brought him mediocre returns. He was out without scoring in Chennai and was bowled for three in Kolkata. Only in the third game did he contribute, making an unbeaten 36.

With Karnataka team-mate K.L. Rahul waiting in the wings, Pandey understands that his place in the side is not certain. “Definitely (there is pressure),” he said, speaking of the competition for middle-order spots ahead of the fourth ODI at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here.

“There is pressure, but there is a spot for the taking. So I will be doing the hard work to try and find a place. I am here to stay, play a lot of games and win a lot of games for India. So far I've got No.4 and there are times when the batting order has changed a little bit. I will be looking to play most of the games in that order and do well for the team.”

READ: Transformed Pandya keeps it simple

Pandey has batted at No.4 in seven of his 14 ODI innings, but in Indore he walked out at six, with Hardik Pandya promoted to two-drop instead. The move was a resounding success for India as the Baroda all-rounder walloped a 72-ball-78. It was exactly the sort of innings Pandey would have hoped to play to make his case.

“The last game when Hardik came out to bat, the situation was perfect for a No.4 player,” he admitted. “But I had to bat at No.6 because that was the plan of the team. Sometimes the plan is when the spinners are on, somebody who is a little more aggressive and can hit the big sixes will pad up. That’s what Ravi bhai said in the meeting. We were all fine with that and it paid off. Hardik played really well. If somebody makes it click batting at No.4, it’s good for the middle-order. It’s a little easy for us.”

READ: Manish Pandey - The case for No. 4 spot

As India tries out various team combinations in the lead-up to the next World Cup, Pandey may expect someone to be given a chance at his expense at some stage. “I think the situation has not come to me [being dropped] yet,” he remarked. “But, if you are trying to make a bunch ready to play the next World Cup, you have to give enough chances to people. I’m one of the guys who’s getting his chances right now.”

He would do well to make them count.