Since scoring that match winning century against Australia at Sydney Manish Pandey has pretty much been a permanent member of India‘s limited-overs squad. Be it ODIs or T20Is, Pandey has shown the aptitude to make vital contributions to the team with the bat. From being one among many contenders in for the No. 4 spot in ODIs to comfortably slipping into the role of a finisher, Pandey’s growth has been phenomenal. He is certainly in India’s plans when it comes to picking the team for the ICC World Cup in 2019.
In the absence of experienced campaigners like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, Pandey has taken it on himself not just to steady the innings, but tries his best to stay at the crease till the end and that is what Pandey is striving to do in the ongoing Nidahas Trophy tri-nation T20I series.
Manish Pandey in the ongoing series has scores of 37, 27* and 42*. To go with this, he also had a superb T20I series in South Africa, scoring 29*, 79* and 13 as India won the series 2-1. Having Pandey come in at No. 4 or 5 in T20Is has given India’s batting much more depth. His presence in the top 5 means that the likes of Dhoni can come lower down the order. Although Dhoni has often been criticised in the recent past for his underwhelming performances in T20Is, but psychologically, his presence does make a difference – for this team and the opponent.
Pandey, however, needs to step his game up in the 50-over format. He did not get a single game in South Africa as Shreyas Iyer and Dinesh Karthik were preferred ahead of him in the side, but given his current form in T20Is, he should be in contention for a spot in ODIs. Not just Shreyas and Karthik, but KL Rahul, Rahane and even on some occasions, Hardik Pandya too are vying for the No. 4 spot.
India next plays an ODI in England from July. Pandey is more or less assured of a place, but whether he will play in the XI, is to be seen. Given his potential, Virat Kohli will not be hesitant to pick him. But his best position in the team is still unclear.
Is Pandey a No. 4 batsman – one who can steady the ship after a loss of a couple of early wickets or a No. 6 batsman who can finish the innings off with a flurry of boundaries and also play well with the team?
Although Pandey considers batting at No. 4 his forte, he may have to do with batting a spot or two below that in the ODI team.
Going by the current Indian 50-over set up, it is most likely that Pandey will bat at No. 5, which will suit him perfectly. He plays some handy quick bursts, which ensures that his team finishes at least 10-15 runs more than expected. We have only seen glimpses of that so far in both ODIs and T20Is.
The upcoming season of cricket will be a crucial one for Pandey and India will hope that he shapes up well. The IPL 2018, where he was purchased for Rs 11 crore by Sunrisers Hyderabad from a base price of Rs 1 crore, further reiterates that he is rated very highly and will be keen on performing well in that tournament, knowing well that the national selectors will have one eye on him as well.