CHENNAI:With a top-two finish on the table in their bag, SunRisers Hyderabad are having the time of their lives at the moment. Manish Pandey, on the other hand, isn’t.It was last Sunday when Twitterati were out in droves with verbal pitchforks, baying for his blood. The 28-year-old was affixed on their crosshairs, after a knuckle-ball from Chennai Super Kings pacer Shardul Thakur ended his stay at the crease for a 6-ball 5. The brickbats rained more intensely when Pandey dropped MS Dhoni during what turned out to be a successful chase for Chennai, and an inconsequential loss for SunRisers. But the right-hander was the focus of the netizens’ ire, with jibes ranging from his inclusion in “IPL’s Flop XI” to trolling his presence in India’s T20 squad for England.
Even though the magnitude of this backlash can be construed as exaggerated, those venting their anger on social media did have numbers to back themselves up. In 10 innings, Pandey has accumulated 189 runs with a strike rate of 111.17, with the latter being the lowest among the established batsmen in the Orange Army.
The right-hander has notched up two fifties so far, both against Kings XI Punjab. The one in Mohali was an ostensible reason for SunRisers losing steam towards the death overs while facing a steep target. The other in Hyderabad turned out to be a sole saving grace, providing a crucial run-cushion in a victorious low-total defence. These two innings apart, Pandey’s returns this season read: 11, 4, 0, 16, 16, 21, 5, 5.
“There is no doubt about Manish’s talent, he’s proved that time and again in both this event and at the international level. But when you’re not in form, pressure can bog you down even further. And that’s what is happening with him,” explained former India batsman and coach Anshuman Gaekwad.
Apart from spectators putting him under the cosh, the form of his middle-order comrades may have put Pandey under additional pressure. Though Yusuf Pathan may have ameliorated his numbers to a certain extent with a couple of cameos against Chennai and Mumbai Indians, Shakib Al Hasan and Deepak Hooda are yet to make consequential statistical dents with their blades. That in turn has made things tougher for Pandey, whose willow-wielding methodology borders more on “graft and build to a crescendo” than “bludgeon from the word go”.
Also, SunRisers have not been the fastest starters off the block this season (average powerplay run rate 7.57). The need to resuscitate their run rate towards the end of the innings could also have factored into exacerbating Manish dismal run. The fact that he has been sent back to the dugout on seven occasions while trying to manufacture shots despite the ball not warranting it can be used to buttress this notion.
“People may say that T20s have only 20 overs, but 120 balls is more than enough in itself. The likes of (Kane) Williamson and (Shikhar) Dhawan are examples of the fact that you don’t need a lot of boundaries to build big scores,” observed Gaekwad.“Manish needs to focus on constructing an innings, and should bide his time for the bad balls. With his talent, he will surely bounce back.”