Manish Pandey’s repeated exclusion from Team India raises questions | Cricket News
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“Batting No. 4 is one of the chances I got because Ajju (Ajinkya Rahane) was injured, and I wanted to capitalise, especially on these wickets, with 300 scored in every match.”
These were Manish Pandey’s words after his match-winning 104 off 81 balls in the fifth ODI at Sydney in January 2016, which helped India chase down 330 and avoid a 5-0 series whitewash.
He received fulsome praise from the then ODI skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and man of the series Rohit Sharma too and it seemed India had found a quality batsman at the much debated No.4 spot to keep up the tempo after the power-packed top three of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.
India’s captain-in-waiting, Kohli, too gave Pandey a bear hug after that chase. After all, the two go back some way, having featured in India’s 2008 Under-19 World Cup title win in Kuala Lumpur and two seasons being IPL teammates for RCB in 2009 and 2010.
However, what India’s first centurion in the IPL (2009) got was repeated snubs.
In a five and a half year career, despite dazzling on ‘A’ tours as captain and domestic games, including IPL, Pandey has curiously featured in only 26 ODIs.
The chat around Indian cricket is Pandey is a ‘bade match ka player’ as he always scores in big matches. In the Ranji final of 2010 vs Mumbai in Mysuru, he scored a quality 144 in the fourth innings and also pulled off a blinder to dismiss Abhishek Nayar as Karnataka fell six runs shy off Mumbai’s target in one of the best domestic games you would see in the last 20 years. In a must-win IPL game against Deccan Chargers, at Centurion in 2009, he slammed a ton and followed it up with another quality half century against Chennai Super Kings in the semis, a knock that impressed CSK skipper Dhoni so much that he put his arm around the then 19-year-old and gave him some precious advice.
In the Duleep Trophy semifinal in 2010-2011, he butchered Central Zone in Hyderabad and scored 218 off 209 balls. In the 2014 IPL final in his hometown Bengaluru, he starred in a tall chase for KKR against Kings XI Punjab, scoring 94 of the most polished runs. Why then, despite that hundred, has he not been a regular in the squad is a mystery.
“The kind of innings Manish Pandey has played; it gives you extra 15 games to settle in and start to do what you need to do. And adapt to the demands of the game. Because a lot will also change when you play in the subcontinent. As of now he looks good at No. 5,” Dhoni said after the win in Sydney in 2016.
But Pandey didn’t even get 15 games at No.5 or 6. He played in the ODI series in Zimbabwe but did not get to bat in two of the three games and scored a four not out in the other.
He had a disappointing outing at home against New Zealand, which happened to be Dhoni’s last series as captain, getting scores of 17, 19, 28 not out, 12 and 0. The last duck at Vizag, would have probably registered in the minds of the selectors and current skipper Kohli. A slog sweep off Ish Sodhi landed in the lap of Trent Boult at deep mid-wicket with the game in balance on a tough surface, when rotating the strike and feeding Kohli, who was well set, with more strike, would have been a better option.
In January 2017, Dhoni, who probably had a vision for grooming Pandey, stepped down as skipper and Kohli took over and Pandey was quickly ignored as the selectors, probably wanting success in the Champions Trophy, brought back the experienced Yuvraj Singh to bat at No.4. To the superstar left-hander’s credit, he did play some impactful knocks like the one in the first match of the 2017 Champions Trophy in Birmingham against Pakistan and his hundred vs England in Cuttack.
But those knocks were few and far in-between and the experiment soon ended. It was almost an admission by the selectors that they had made a mistake to bring back Yuvraj at the expense of a proven talent like Pandey who had succeeded in tough situations.
Pandey made it back to the squad on the 2017 tour of Sri Lanka and scored 50 not out and 36 in the two games he was picked as India registered a 5-0 sweep.
He got to play in all the five games vs Australia at home and if one was to play Devils Advocate, then one will have to argue that it is in that series that Pandey should have made a mark. Instead, he got scores of 0, 3, 36 not out, 33 and 11 not out. After that he has had limited chances to prove his worth and even in games that he has batted in, he has come in when there were few deliveries remaining or very few runs left to chase down.
Emergence of players like Hardik Pandya, Shreyas Iyer, the resurgence in the batting form of Ravindra Jadeja, and bilateral ODI series getting shorter to three ODIS all over the world, has probably made his task of having an impact that much more difficult.
But Pandey can be used as a floater or finisher. He can graft, he can play the big shots and is also a gun fielder and is a terrific runner between wickets. Reports also suggest that he often registers the highest marks in the fitness tests. All these are attributes that Kohli appreciates and makes public his preference for such players.
Why then this repeated snub? He has now been a part of 73 ODIs when he has been in the squad but has not been played. It is frustrating for any player; leave alone a talented guy like Pandey. At least in a dead rubber like India played on Wednesday, one would have thought that Pandey would have been given a chance. But Shubman Gill opened in place of the dropped Mayank Agarwal and Pandey once again spent an entire series on the bench despite having a good IPL where he batted at No.3 for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Talking of the IPL, if one looks at the “Aaj shot nahin maarega” rant of Kohli in RCB’s eliminator against SRH in Abu Dhabi recently when Pandey walked in to bat and defended a couple of deliveries and later responding with a six and a glare back at the RCB skipper, one will have to assume that there is some underlying tension between the two former under-19 and current India teammates. And one hopes for Pandey’s sake that such tensions are not the cause for his repeated exclusions.
One hopes that his T20 I record, Avg of 47.13 in 38 matches and a strike rate of 127.61 with three half centuries including a majestic 79 not out vs South Africa at Centurion are kept in mind when India take the field at the Manuka Oval for the three-match T20 series on Friday.
When Manish Pandey did not play despite being in the ODI squad
71 vs Zimbabwe at Harare on July 14, 2015 (debut ODI)
Missed Five ODIs vs South Africa in 2015-16 in India despite in the squad
Missed the following 16 ODIs in succession despite being in the squads
a) Missed Three ODIs vs England in 2016-17 in India despite in the squad
b) Missed Five ODIs in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 despite in the squad
c) Missed Five ODIs vs West Indies in the West Indies in WI in 2017 despite in the squad
d) Missed Three ODIs vs Sri Lanka in SL in 2017 but played in the fourth ODI at Colombo (RPS) on 31-8-2017, scoring 50 not out
Missed the following 16 ODIs in succession despite being in the squads
a) Missed all three ODis vs New Zealand in 2017-18 in India despite being in the squad
b) Missed all six ODis vs S.Africa in S.Africa in 2017-18 despite being in the squad
c) Missed all three ODIs vs England in England in 2018 despite being in the squad
d) Missed the next four ODIs in the Asia Cup in UAE in 2018 but played the last ODI vs Afghanistan, scoring 8
Missed the following 33 ODIs in succession despite being in the squads
a) 5 vs West Indies in 2018-19 in India
b) 3 vs Australia in 2018-19 in Australia
c) 5 vs N.Zealand in 2019 in NZ
d) 5 vs Australia in 2018-19 in India
e) 9 in the World Cup in 2019
f) 6 vs W.Indies in 2019 – three in West Indies, followed by three in India in 2019-20
g) 1 vs Australia in 2019-20 in India but played the second and third ODI
Missed all three vs Australia in 2020-21