It is not easy being Manish Pandey. One of the most attractive batsmen in the country yet prone to being bogged down. Pandey is a classic anomaly of a cricketer whose foray in the Indian Premier League since that century against Deccan Chargers as a teenager has been a roller-coaster. Not many would dispute that when in full flow, Pandey leaves some of the biggest T20 superstars behind with the sheer beauty of his stroke-making.
Not so long ago, in the game against Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2020, Pandey made Jofra Archer look like a rookie with his audacity. Yet, those moments remain few and far between. Sunrisers Hyderabad punted big with a price tag of 11 Crore, they wanted him to come good, but so far, he hasn’t rewarded their faith.
Since joining SRH in 2018, the Karnataka batsman has been scoring at a strike rate of just a shade over 125 with a boundary coming in every seven balls. As a matter of fact, with a minimum of 500 runs filter, only Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, and Robin Uthappa have fared worse than Pandey in the said time period. There were clearly some limitations to his T20 repertoire but it took SRH as many as five games in the 2019 edition to realize the same as Pandey returned with scores of 8*, 1, 19, 10, and 16 at No.4 and No.5.
He was not dropped but rather promoted to the No.3 position as a replacement for Kane Williamson and that paid instant dividends. 83*, 61, 36, 71*, 9, and 30 in six innings highlighted the ability of a gifted player, who didn’t always have to deliver consistently. It was Manish Pandey in a different avatar - a utility one, of course. In the due course, there was, however, a pattern that was hard to miss.
Can Pandey open? It is a win-win
Pandey went hard against the pacers and pretty much solidified his position before spinners came into the picture. It reflected in his numbers as well. He scores at just over 110 against the spinners. For batsmen with a minimum 300 runs, his SR of 111 is superior only to MS Dhoni’s SR of 99 in the phase. Thus it begs the question - if Pandey is actually better placed to open the innings instead of Wriddhiman Saha?
Inside the powerplay, he has done significantly better, with an average over 75 and scores at close to 140. No batsman has scored at a better rate than Pandey’s 149 in the first six overs of the innings and he was dismissed only twice in 18 innings during the phase.
Opening with Pandey will allow SRH the option of playing Wriddhiman Saha at number 3. Thanks to the fact that the Bengal wicket-keeper has the ability to accelerate against the spinners and has a good sweep shot to counter them, it might just be a win-win for the franchise.
Further, Pandey tends to throw away his wicket after a good start, perennially his kryptonite in both ODI and T20I cricket. To be precise, he has been dismissed within scores of 15 to 35 a staggering 31% of times since IPL 2010. It doesn’t fit well to a player of Pandey’s caliber but if he can open him up and give him a chance of maximizing his potential before being dismissed, the team will still be at an advantageous position.
A weapon to Bumrah threat
Every single team in the IPL has always been worried about the biggest conundrum of all - the Jasprit Bumrah threat while facing Mumbai Indians. In Manish Pandey, they have a player who is fantastic to bat as a power play specialist. Pandey has never been dismissed by the Indian pacer, scoring runs at 208 - the highest against a bowler for Pandey. That is unreal dominance and should be enough inspiration for the Southern Indian franchise to promote the Karnataka boy to partner David Warner at the top.
The merit of dropping Pandey for the MI game
Sunrisers Hyderabad have never won a game in Chennai. They have lost all five games they have played at the venue in the last eight years and staggeringly they are slated to play three more this season. With a bunch of right-handed batsmen in the line-up, tackling a left-arm spinner like Krunal Pandya and a leg-spinner like Rahul Chahar will require a lot of strategic planning. If someone like Virat Singh can be accommodated, it will release some pressure off Warner and SRH can hit the match-up game to the T.
If Sunrisers Hyderabad, who have played five matches in Chennai, losing every single one of them in the last eight years, want to alter their record, they need to address their flaws right away. The repair job needs to start from the top.