India vs Sri Lanka: Manish Pandey ready to battle it out with KL Rahul for No.4 spotThe middle-order batsman was a part of the India A tour to South Africa and his sparkling form with the bat there helped him get back to the senior side.
After thrashing Sri Lanka in the three-match Test series, Team India will look to reassert their dominance in the limited overs format with yet another dominant show. However, with the change in format - the Indian team think-tank will have to once again have to go back to the drawing board to take a look at various permutations and combinations ahead of the five-match ODI series which starts on August 20 in Dambulla.
With the Indian team management having already announced that KL Rahul will bat at no.4 in the upcoming five-ODI series against Sri Lanka, middle-order batsman Manish Pandey says he is ready to wait for his chance. "That's where I bat, the middle-order," said Pandey, referring to the no.4 spot. "That's somewhere I have been batting for a long time. But if the team thinks somebody else can do that role really well...KL has been batting really well in the Tests, I would love to see that happen.
"Whatever the management decides on the batting order, we abide by that, he added.
Pandey has had a roller-coaster ride so far in international cricket. He has been in contention for a while now and even scored a maiden ODI hundred against Australia in Sydney in January 2016. But a poor outing against New Zealand at home in October last year saw him being dropped from the playing XI.
"The game I played in Australia, I batted no.4. That's where I normally bat, and that's where I know how many overs I have to play. That's where I have batted my entire career.
"Batting at no.5 or no.6 was a bit new for me during the New Zealand series, and I think it took me sometime to get used to that situation with only 15-odd overs left in the game. You can't settle in from that position," said Pandey.
"You just need to go out and go at everything from ball one. I think I have adapted to that situation well. Let's see how it goes."
The 27-year-old has been part of the selectors' plans throughout and was even named in the original 15-member squad for the Champions Trophy in England. Unfortunately, he got injured and missed the bus.
"Talking about the injury, I think that was a really sad. I missed two IPL games and the Champions Trophy. Nevertheless, my physios gave me a six-week rest and I am just happy to come back and play the India 'A' series. To win that series was really important for me. I am pretty happy with the way I batted. I am just trying to keep up the form.
"IPL was going good for me - 10 games, about 400 runs - and then I missed those crucial two games. But it's part of the game, that's what you do (wait for your chance) and I've played the waiting game really well so far," said Pandey.
He has been focussed on fighting off injuries and staying fit so that any further opportunities don't go abegging. He was a part of the India A tour to South Africa and his sparkling form there helped him get back to the senior side.
"Honestly, I have waited a long time to come to the Indian side as I'm used to it now. Sometimes, when you are not in form, it doesn't really hurt as much as when you're doing well and suddenly get injured. But I think you take it in your stride and that's the time when you get to learn what's the weak part of your body and where you have to work.
"I had enough time, about six weeks, to work on myself and do a couple of things I had to do. It was good for me in a way but obviously a little disappointed about the time it happened. But it's always good to come back. I had a good India A series, and the team did really well. So, I'm pretty happy," insisted Pandey.
Stressing the importance on fitness, Pandey said: "It's really important for all of us to be fit. We spoke about it an hour ago today and everyone is really happy with this.
"The senior most guy in the side MS Dhoni to the youngest Kuldeep Yadav is okay with it and they are comfortable with the idea. Being fit does give me an advantage (on the field). One more thing is that I should never be satisfied with this. I should just keep working hard on it (fitness)," he said.
There are a few youngsters in this current Indian set-up who have flown in straight from South Africa, and are trying to adjust quickly to the conditions.
"I had a decent break, about 5-6 days at home. This is almost like India, the timings are the same. A couple of days, it was a little difficult for me (when I returned from South Africa) but now it's all good, just that the temperature is a little warmer. We all have played in these conditions before and we're all raring to go," said Pandey.
"It's a completely different format but I think what advantage we have is that we have whitewashed Sri Lanka (3-0) in the Test series and they might be a little down (in terms of confidence). But we have to keep playing well and do our basics right. If we do that we will probably have a good one- day series too," he signed off.
(With PTI Inputs)