“Honestly, it’s a little tough and it works on your mind a lot,” Manish Pandey said when asked about dealing with his one-step-forward-two-backward international career so far. “Especially on this tour I have felt it a lot actually. I had to see a doctor also because of that, but that was cricket is all about. You have to wait [for] your chances, especially to play for a team like India when you have so many stars and legends after legends. You have to be patient, and I am trying my bit there.”
“See a doctor?”
“I was half joking,” Pandey said.
Even if it is a complete joke about seeing a doctor, it has to be tough being Pandey in this side. He is a gun player in his IPL sides, he has shown great promise for India in ODIs, but every time he moves closer to cementing his place, either an injury or a dip in form knocks him back. This was the third time on this tour that Pandey had come back to Centurion, the site of his IPL century that put him on the map 10 years ago. He responded to India’s crisis with a nifty 79 off 48, but spoke about missing game time on the tour.
“Yeah I was waiting to play here,” Pandey said when asked about special memories of Centurion. “Even in the ODIs I was trying to squeeze my chances in, but that didn’t happen. But in the T20s, it has been good, and Centurion has always been good to me. I still remember the hundred I got here about nine-ten years ago.”
Pandey’s case in ODIs has been a combination of being stuck in a batting line-up whose top three take majority of the bowling and also a failure to make himself indispensable when opportunities have presented themselves.
“Because I bat No. 5 most of the time, I got a few chances at No. 4 and I have delivered so the batting combination sometimes pushes me down to No. 5,” Pandey said. “I have tried my bit, but I also feel that I could also probably do a little bit more with myself, but as you know that India has a really good top line-up and the top three finish batting 30-35 overs with the guys like Virat [Kohli], and with Mahi [MS Dhoni] coming ahead of me. But yeah, it will be… some more chances, and I wish I could deliver more. And I feel I can deliver a lot more than what I am doing right now.”
Pandey is aware batting at No. 5 in modern ODI cricket, especially in a top-heavy line-up like India’s, is not easy. Often the top order bats more than 35 overs, and the others get no time to get into their innings. “It is tough playing for India at No. 5,” Pandey said. “The people who have batted at No. 5 before me, guys like [Suresh] Raina, Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh], to fill in their shoes is a little tough but it has been a couple of years until now that the Indian batting line-up is doing really well.
“I think you have to be very patient for your chances and from ball one you have to go after it. That’s what I tried to do in the first game. I played a little slow, it happens coming back after a long time and staying here. It was in my mind a little bit but today was a good day for me and I want to continue playing the way I have always played. That’s how I have to keep squeezing my chances in there.”
At the moment, when it comes to ODIs, Pandey is behind Ajinkya Rahane at No. 4 and Kedar Jadhav at No. 5. Even when Jadhav was injured, Shreyas Iyer was selected ahead of him. He will need more than a few innings like the one in Centurion, even if in the T20 format, to stake his claim to that ODI spot.