Manish Pandey is running out of chances to claim a spot in India's middle-order
Manish Pandey, who at one point was hailed as the next big thing in Indian cricket, has become a shadow of the batsman who initially burst on to the scene in the 2009 edition of the IPL.
Then a free-flowing batsman with the gift of impeccable timing, Pandey could pack a punch with his shots. Now, almost nine years later, he barely resembles that batsman that set the stage alight as a 19-year-old.
While he has showed his prowess from time to time with innings like the 48-ball 79 that he struck in India’s tour of South Africa earlier this year, such knocks have been too few and too far in between.
With the 2019 ICC World Cup barely 12 months away, his already precarious spot in the India’s limited-overs setup is on the firing line. The 28-year-old has come off a middling IPL campaign for runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad in which he scored 284 runs in 15 matches at an average of 25.81. More than his low returns in terms of runs, it is Pandey’s strike-rate which has been the cause of the biggest worry.
The right-handed batsman scored the 284 runs at a measly strike-rate of 115. Despite scoring three half-centuries in the recent IPL edition, Pandey’s inability to up the scoring rate and struggles to find the boundaries have stood out.
That shortcoming has been clearly visible in his recent outings for India too with the two-match T20 series against Ireland bringing further proof. In the second T20I at Dublin, Pandey struggled for timing and power in the death overs and could only muster a 20-ball 21 which contained just the one boundary.
That this knock came after KL Rahul and Suresh Raina had given India a blazing start was damning for Pandey. While he was struggling to put the boundaries away, Hardik Pandya came and smashed 32 runs off just nine deliveries to take India past the 200-run mark.
When Pandey was picked ahead of the in-form Dinesh Karthik in the first T20 against Ireland, the groans from Indian fans on social media were audible. Skipper Virat Kohli then stated that the middle-order will see some shuffling over the course of India’s limited-overs clashes in the UK this summer as he sought to try out different combinations in the lead up to the World Cup.
It is that one spot in the middle-order that India have failed to tie down for some time now. The likes of KL Rahul, Pandey and Karthik have all auditioned for that role in the past year or so but none has seemingly been able to nail down the spot. In Karthik’s case though, he performed the task to perfection when given the chance in the Nidahas T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Rahul, meanwhile, enjoyed a terrific IPL with Kings XI Punjab and has catapulted himself as a strong contender for a spot in India’s playing XI after a fine half-century against Ireland on his India return.
At the moment, Pandey still remains in contention to get that coveted spot in the World Cup squad judging by Kohli’s words and actions so far. But it can be safely said, that time is running out for the Nainital-born batsman. The T20 and ODI series against England will be make or break for him with younger contenders in the form of Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer knocking on the doors.