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Karnataka hope Pandey hits stride

Nihal Koshie

Posted: Nov 17, 2012 at 0310 hrs IST

Meerut: After watching Uttar Pradesh stars Suresh Raina and Mohammad Kaif train from close quarters, a couple of fans at the Bhambashah Stadium dragged their feet to other corner of field where Karnataka trained. But mid-way through their journey the star-stuck youngsters had second thoughts. “There’s no point. they don’t have star players like our Raina,” said one as the couple took a U-turn out of the arena.

There was Manish Pandey, a under-19 World Cup winner and an IPL star, in the touring party but he isn’t quite a household name. Pandey had started his journey to stardom quite well but later his pace got laboured and that means the dream destination is still miles away.

Two double centuries in first-class cricket, against Mumbai in Ranji Trophy (2011-12) and in the Duleep Trophy (2010-11) semifinal versus Central Zone, have reaffirmed belief that the 23-year-old Pandey (best known for becoming the first Indian to hit a century in the IPL) has the technique to play first-class cricket.

But precious time has been lost —through surgery-induced lay-off last season and lack of consistency — in Pandey’s quest to take the next big step. Missing out on two India A tours; to the West Indies and New Zealand this year, has pushed Pandey down the pecking order.

“Last year after scoring the double century against Mumbai I had to undergo a hernia surgery and that put me on the sidelines. It was a difficult period for me as I thought that I was in good form and you don’t want to miss out on a season just after scoring a double hundred. I was hoping to get picked for the India A tours but I didn’t have enough runs to push my case. There were others who had made many more runs and deserved a chance,” Pandey told The Indian Express on the eve of the Group B game versus Uttar Pradesh.

This season Pandey has made a slow start with 18 and six in the two innings so far. He missed out on a big score in the second game when his team mates Ganesh Satish (200 n.o) and CM Gautam (130 n.o) helped secure the first-innings lead by pushing the team total past Tamil Nadu’s 562 in a round of matches during which over 20 centuries, including two triple tons were scored.

“In domestic cricket the competition is really fierce with so many batsmen scoring centuries and double and triple centuries. If you have to stand out in a season you have to score lots of runs consistently or score big runs in the knockouts when it matters. This season and the next are very important for me with regard to taking my game to the next level. I need to become more consistent if I am to fulfill my potential,” Pandey added.

Karnataka coach J Arun Kumar, the former opening batsman, believes that Pandey has every shot in the book but sometimes plays too many too soon. “I would go to the extent to say that Manish is as talented as a Yuvraj or a Virat Kohli. But there is no point in having all the talent unless it translates into runs consistently. No selector is going to wait on talent endlessly,” Kumar said.

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