At Sydney, it was literally the ‘babies’ day out. If Jasprit Bumrah showed how worthy he can be with the ball, Manish Pandey pounced on the chance and produced an innings full of character. While everyone who saw Pandey’s innings must be in awe of the young batsman, for people in his home state of Karnataka, this is business as usual.
Such has been the reputation of the 26-year-old Pandey. Ever since he burst onto the scene in Karnataka as a U-17 player, he has been producing match-winning knocks. Walking into a pressure situation gives Pandey the high to go after the challenge.
“For us, who have seen him through his U-17, U-19 days, this is not a surprise actually. His match-winning innings for Karnataka over the past five years aren’t a surprise. After the first two ODIs, he was waiting to have a go at the bowling. He is an impact player,” coach GK Anil Kumar told HT from Bengaluru.
Ajinkya Rahane’s omission from the India squad due to an injury meant Pandey was to occupy an important position in the batting order. It would require a wise head to take on the challenge. Suresh Raina too had occupied the same spot in the past but a string of failures cost him his spot in the ODI side.
Pandey, though, has grown into a batsman out of such instances. “I remember once the Karnataka U-17 side needed 70-odd runs with only three wickets in hand. It was a pressure situation and Pandey was batting alongside tail-enders. In the break, he came to me and said ‘coach aaj jitaunga’ (I will win and come back).
” He is a fighter, positive person and his innings at KKR in the IPL is an example of his talent,” the coach adds.
In the Australia innings, David Warner, despite losing four partners at 117, never thought of slowing down. His positive approach of going after the bowlers helped Mitchell Marsh to flourish.
Pandey followed suit. When he arrived at the crease, India were two down, but to chase 330 a positive mindset was the need of the hour. Pandey stepped on the accelerator right from the word go and matched up to Rohit Sharma. He looked to go after the bowling and kept rotating the strike. He reached his maiden century in just 81 balls. In 2009, he had become the first one to score an IPL century in just 67 balls.
“He is an intuitive player. I am not comparing him with Virender Sehwag but he is of that mould and goes with that mindset. He has his unique way of scoring runs and has his strengths. For him, the high of playing cricket is to win matches and sometimes, even to a point even if it was unconventional,” says Anil Kumar.
Another Karnataka teammate who points to Pandey’s positive mindset is Ganesh Satish. He played with Pandey for Karnataka but has now shifted base to Vidarbha.
“I have been playing alongside Pandey since age-group level. He likes to take on the bowlers. I remember our 2009-10 Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai. We were chasing 330 for victory and Pandey got a brilliant 130. The situation was precarious as Karnataka were struggling at 50-odd with three down. Pandey went after the strong Mumbai attack, including Ajit Agarkar and Dhawal Kulkarni and kept pulling them on a quick wicket. That is Pandey for you,” Ganesh tells HT.
Against Australia, Pandey relied on horizontal shots. The best aspect of his batting though was the way he played through the square region with perfection, making room for himself with ease.
“He paced his innings very well and played with a horizontal bat. This is possible because he practices a lot for these shots. I have seen him at the NCA, and he asks people to give him throw downs from a very short distance. Say from 18 yards as the reaction time reduces,” explains Anil Kumar.
In the context of the series, Pandey’s hundred will be remembered for a long time. Not only did his innings restricted a series whitewash, his century was the one which took India to a win.
“From the time he won Ranji Trophy for Karnataka, we always thought that this would be the year he would get a look in but four years passed just like that. This innings and match is a benchmark for him. I think he has sealed that slot which is a very important position. I think India have found the right man,” he says.