When Manish Pandey is in full flow, he conveys the sense of a batsman who is capable of great deeds. His stroke-making, the way his feet move, the manner in which he finds the gaps and seizes the initiative are all hallmarks of good batsmen.
But then again, this isn’t something we didn’t know about him. Ever since he scored a century as a 19-year-old in the 2009 Indian Premier League season, he was ear-marked as a talent that the selectors must keep an eye on.
But despite his obvious skill, he has never quite managed to find the consistency that would elevate him into a world-class player. But on Thursday night against Rajasthan Royals, Pandey, who is now 31, once again showed how dangerous he can be once he takes the limiters off.
Batting first, Rajasthan Royals put on 154/6 at the end of their 20 overs. The ball was stopping on the batsmen a bit and no RR batsmen really managed to get going.
In response, SRH had their task cut out. They could plan the chase better but when they lost David Warner and Jonny Bairstow with just 16 runs on the board, they were in a spot of bother.
The middle-order hadn’t exactly come to the part for Warner’s team and one wasn’t quite sure how the chase would go. But while everyone else seemingly had their doubts, Pandey, for a change, was clear of them.
“Enough talks had happened around the middle order and it was high time for us to perform,” said Pandey. “I had a word with Laxman sir and the coaches. Didn’t want too many thoughts. I just wanted to hold my shape, stay on the wicket and play my shots. Really happy that it came off today. Two really good batsmen that we lost, but as someone said, this was an opportunity for us to win the game. And it was long due.”
The danger is such a chase is that if the require run-rate climbs too high, then the scoreboard pressure gets the batsmen to make mistakes. But Pandey, at his belligerent best, ensured that Vijay Shankar simply had to tag along.
He started off with 1 run off 5 balls but then a poor over from Karthik Tyagi set him free. The RR paceman gifted Pandey a few short and wide deliveries which allowed the right-hander to hit two consecutive fours. He didn’t look back after that.
Pandey is very much a ‘feel’ batsman. Once he starts feeling good about his batting, the confidence flows and then there is little that can hold him back.
“Our plan was to see Jofra off even if he had bowled a third,” said Pandey. “We had two leggies and a couple of Indian fast bowlers to go after. I just middled the first ball, and automatically I thought if I keep my shape and use the Powerplay, I could finish this well before the final over.”
The truly special part of the innings was the manner in which he kept finding the ropes. He hit an incredible eight sixes in his knock and those big hits ensured that RR were never able to build any pressure on SRH.
With a splendid mix of aggression and sensible batting, Pandey moved the game forward for SRH and got them a vital win; a win that kept them alive in the competition.
SRH skipper David Warner was clearly pleased with the Pandey-Shankar partnership.
“It is just great to show people that we do have a middle order,” said Warner after the game. “For them to come out and play like this, I am so happy for them. They showed they can build a platform for us to get across the line. Or set a big total. I am chuffed for them.”
Indeed, if Sunrisers can get their batting in order, the strength of their bowling will ensure they will have a chance against any team. Maybe, at long last, they have found the balance they truly need.