Recently, before the brave Kiwis, who’d faced heat in the T20 series owing to a poor whitewash, fought back in the opening ODI, Virat Kohli led team India created history. In hammering New Zealand in the fifth and final T20I at the Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, India made countless back home proud of their worthy feat.
The famous whitewash made India the only side to clean sweep a five-match T20I bilateral series. There are achievements and there are massive achievements. You know the importance of the latter in lines with India’s victory.
But could it have been any easy given the hosts had an upper hand with 3-8 head-to-head record in the T20Is?
Several players in this series came out to deliver exceptional performances, especially in crunch situations. We saw Mohammed Shami with the white-ball in the final over before the ‘super over’ sent Ian Smith and millions of Kiwis on a crazed tizzy. We saw Shardul Thakur with his exceptional white-ball spells. There was KL Rahul, who inspired comparisons with the other famous Rahul the team has been blessed with in the past. Then there was Shreyas Iyer, with the support of his skipper and the vice-captain, who gave birth to a run-bath in New Zealand.
But is that all? There was one bloke in the team who, perhaps we haven’t reserved a lot of talk for, but one who has against his name an emphatic achievement.
He is yet to get out in the shortest format since the Windies tour in 2019.
Perhaps Manish Pandey should be lauded for his Manish Pandey, whose batting at no.6, who has been delivering what legendary wicket-keeper batsman aka captain cool MS Dhoni used to do in the shortest white-ball format.
The Karnataka batsman has made 144 runs (11*, 50*, 14*, 14*, 31*, 22*, 2* ) in his last 7 T20I innings without getting out.
Zaheer Khan, who was recently honored with India’s fourth-highest civilian honor – Padma Shri, said “Unhone situation ko bahut ache se samjha hai. Woh apne game ko bahut ache se samajh rahe hain.
“He understands the match situations really well. He is also aware of his own strengths and weaknesses as of now!”
Also, former Indian cricketer Ajay Jadeja praised the 30-year-old after his back-to-back match-winning knocks against New Zealand.
Further praise was showered on Manish Pandey that highlighted the character and essence of the lower-order bat.
Ajay Jadeja shared, “Agar Dhoni Mercedes version the, toh yeh Alto-version hain. Style wahi hai khelne ka lekin inka horsepower kam hai (I have hardly seen him get out from the 18th over.
This meant, “If Dhoni is the Mercedes-version, he is the Alto-version. He might not have the same horsepower, but has the same playing style as Dhoni!”
But let go of massive praise. Forget the big talk. When you make runs, they all turn fans for the moment. Focus elsewhere.
Let’s think for a second. Can the numbers lie?
With an average of 47 in the shortest format, perhaps it’s time that we should end circumcizing the presence of a man who’s, time and again, had to endure an examination, proving his capability and class albeit in times where India are spoilt for a choice, given the sheer talent the bench possesses.
Perhaps it makes less sense to question Manish Pandey’s ability to finish the game.
But how did it all start?
It makes sense when they say behind a successful man, there is a woman.
Karnataka captain Manish Pandey tied a knot with Indian film actor Ashrita Shetty, just hours after lifting the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament in Surat on 1 Dec 2019.
The newly-wed cricketer ended the year 2019 on a good note and has been carrying forward his outstanding form in 2020 as well.
In this Indian Cricket team where bench strength waits for the chance to be in the playing XI like thirsty crow, Manish took every single given chance as a last one and made the best out of it to become the permanent member of the team for a longer time in the shortest format, with the World Cup scheduled in October 2020.
Indian cricket team, at present, is focusing on ODIs starting at Seddon Park, Hamilton on Wednesday (February 05).
Another opportunity for Manish Pandey to stand up for the team and make himself count? One just hopes that the constant in-and-out journeys end for this journeyman and that he becomes the one to vouch for he’s already unquestionably someone to watch out for.
Moreover, at 30, he is far from being too old to be constantly shunned to try out others. And thankfully, where his batting stands at the moment, it’s even miles at length from a rough patch too.
Soldier on, Manish Pandey.