If India would have lost the 5th ODI, I do not know what could have been worse, the fact that one day, Donald Trump might actually become USA’s president or Indian cricket team’s performance overseas.
What a thrilling victory it was at Sydney. It was a relief not to see another whitewash after the catastrophic tour of Down Under in 2011-12. After being hammered in the first four matches, Indian team finally rewarded their fans for keeping faith in them, with a thrilling last over victory after they went on to lose the 4th ODI from the threshold of victory into the jaws of dramatic defeat.
Few might say that 4-1 score line isn’t as ruthless as it seems and that the matches India lost were very close. But if you have followed all the matches, you would know that the Australian team hardly looked unsettled or even seemed to struggle against the Indian attack. In the first three matches, they seemed to effortlessly chase the totals India had put up and the 4th one was handed over to the Aussies by the Indians on a silver platter. The Indian team appeared to be struggling. Their body language on the field indicated as if they weren’t interested. The Indian side’s performance in this bilateral series made the Aussies look invincible yet again. In the 5th ODI however, they looked in control, and in the last few overs, they smashed their way into the victory lane. The highlight of the fifth match was Manish Pandey.
For a player like as highly rated as him, who made his first-class debut in 2008, it’s is surprising that it took eight years to finally play for his country. With tons of runs in the Ranji Trophy (5088 runs), at an average of over 50 – and some eye-popping performances in the IPL, playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders, one could have easily counted on him to make his debut much earlier than he actually did.
It didn’t matter to the selectors when he became the 1st Indian to score a century in the 2nd edition of IPL, it wasn’t worth noting him when seasons after seasons he turned Karnataka into the gladiator of domestic cricket. It didn’t even matter when he scored 94 runs off 50 balls while chasing 199 that helped KKR to defend its title against Kings XI Punjab in 2014 IPL final.
Over the years, Manish Pandey had been ignored. When the selectors picked him for the Zimbabwe tour last year under the surprising captainship of Rahane, he did his best to capitalize on the opportunity given to him. He had scored 71 runs but yet, he wasn’t considered to be a part of Indian side for the South African series. He was finally given a chance India’s tour to Australia. He got the opportunity to play the first two match and then got dropped for the next two. Rahane’s injury gave him an opportunity and he made sure that he had grabbed onto that one with both hands. As of 23rd day of January, Pandey would be remembered for perhaps the most magnificent and timely hundred that has been hit by an Indian batsman in recent times. He scored an unbeaten 104 in a pressure cooker situation, with his side in pursuit of chasing 331- which now is the first time that a 300+ score has been chased against the Aussies on their soil. More importantly, he stayed there till the end and ensured that India doesn’t remain lost.
“The kind of innings Manish has played today will give him an extra 10-15 ODIs, where you can really settle in and start to do what you need to at the international level, adapting to the demands of the game. A lot will change when you play at different venues and in different conditions. As of now he is someone who looks good at No. 5,” Dhoni said after the match. Praising Pandey’s running between the wickets, Dhoni also spoke about the patience that he showed in manipulating the large vacant areas in the field. “I told him whatever happens you will get at least two boundaries, and ultimately we will get those runs. As far as player development is concerned, this innings will be very important for him and he will have to keep in mind the good things he did in this game,” Dhoni added.
After this inning, Manish Pandey has made sure that he can’t be snubbed again for being a just another player. He has battled against all odds and proved himself worthy of the talent he possesses. Strangely, Pandey has been excluded yet again from the T20 squad. Instead of Rahane, Gurkeerat Singh has been selected, who neither impressed with the ball nor with ball in the matches in which he was given the opportunity. But after the brilliant knock that he played, it seems like there’s finally someone who can bat at no. 6 instead of MS Dhoni. Let’s hope that this knock gives him the recognition he deserves.