Swashbuckling Hero – Manish Pandey
Manish Pandey has already gone into the annals of history as the first Indian to score a century in the IPL. A renegade, he likes to play by his own rules, both on and off the pitch. A naturally gifted batsman, his batting is more about timing and picking out gaps, he can also hit big sixes if needed. Now part of the Indian cricket team battling it out in Australia, RITZ met the stylish cricketer from Bangalore before he took off to storm the greens Down Under
Manish Pandey was Karnataka‘s leading run-getter in this season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy with 212 runs in five innings. He first made headlines when he was a member of India’s Under-19 World Cup-winning team in 2008. But it wasn’t until the 2009 IPL, where he became the first Indian batsman to score a century in the tournament, that he was being talked about. Since then, Manish has been a permanent fixture in Karnataka’s squads across formats.
His first international call-up came in October 2014, when he was picked for the T20s against West Indies. He was denied that opportunity after West Indies pulled out of their tour. He put that disappointment behind him by scoring heavily as Karnataka ran riot in the domestic circles, winning the Ranji Trophy, Irani Cup and Vijay Hazare Trophy for a second successive season. An international debut came in Zimbabwe last year, where he made 71, in a 144-run, fifth-wicket stand to steer India out of troubled waters.
And now he’s been given the chance to prove his mettle once more with his selection to India’s T20 and ODI squads for the tour to Australia.
Tells the stylish batsman, “Had I not made it in life as a cricketer I probably would have eventually found my way into the army.” His father, an army officer, had high hopes that his son would follow in his footsteps. But taking note of his son’s love for cricket he embraced his dreams and became Manish’s most ardent supporter. “My dad has been the greatest influence on my game,” he says. “He was the one who spotted my talent and encouraged me to pursue it.”
At the age of eight, he began formal coaching at the Karnataka Institute of Cricket. Manish then came to Bangalore when he was 15 and stayed back when his father was transferred to Rajasthan three years later. In those three years he came to be well regarded in the KSCA league, represented Karnataka at the Under-17 and Under-19 levels, and was always marked for a Ranji cap. He also represented India in the U-19 World Cup in 2008, though he didn’t get many chances to display his prowess in that winning side.
Like many other players of his ilk, Manish too came into the limelight only when he began playing in IPL. “The IPL was a huge platform for me,” he says. In the last eight seasons he has played for four different teams – from Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers, Pune Warriors and finally Kolkata Knight Riders. He was the star of the finale in 2014, effortlessly steering his team to a thrilling win against Kings XI Punjab.
“After the match when Shah Rukh Khan came down to congratulate me, he hugged me and said that he had a feeling in his gut that I would win the match for KKR. Its feels great to be appreciated for what you have done,” says Manish,.
Often considered a tad aloof, Manish chooses to speak out in his defence saying: “I am not aloof; its just that at times I prefer my own company. I’m an extremely private person and I like to introspect and reflect at times, then I go into my zone and stay there for a while. I am always focussed when playing, but off the field I tend to keep to myself and am often misunderstood because of this.” When he’s not playing cricket, Manish prefers to keep fit, either in the gym or playing other sports like football, golf and tennis. His job at Bharath Petroleum also ensures that he is regularly playing cricket for his company. “I’ve been with BP for five years now and am grateful for the opportunities and constant support I get from them,” he tells.
Calling his game of choice a learning experience in life, Manish says that his interactions with foreign players in IPL have helped him learn a lot and groom himself in the right manner. He hopes he can use ride this wave of success to the fullest and find a permanent place on the Indian squad soon.