Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni lamented the lack of quality middle order batsmen who could finish off games and that the dearth of good bowling all-rounders was a concern. He also elaborated on the fact that the bowling needs to be much better and he needed to improve on his batting as well. India seemed to have found an answer to the middle order conundrum at least in Manish Pandey.
The Bangalore lad is quite well known in cricketing circles thanks to his performances in the Indian Premier League. He was a member of the India U-19 World Cup-winning side led by Virat Kohli in 2008. But unlike Kohli, Pandey had to grind through the rigours of domestic cricket for many years before breaking into the Indian team. This seems to have helped him immensely as he held his nerve in a pressure-cooker situation.
Pandey is not an unknown quantity as he has been playing in the IPL for a while now. That stint has benefitted him greatly as it felt like he was perfectly at home in a tough touring country like Australia. His electric fielding is an absolute delight to watch and must have saved around 15-20 runs in the field alone in the fifth one-dayer.
Manish Pandey came in to bat after India lost the crucial wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli in quick succession after a strong foundation had been set. He stitched a critical partnership with Rohit Sharma before the latter fell for a fine 99. He was joined by Dhoni, who seems to be less of a force these days. However, Pandey remained calm, kept finding the gaps with precise strokeplay and came up with the big hits whenever required. Also worth mentioning was his hard running between the wickets, converting the ones into twos and twos into threes.
On his first opportunity in the series to bat with plenty of time left in the game, Pandey did what none of the other Indian batsmen could do throughout the series – getting the team over the line! Dhoni has stressed on the importance of a batsman in the middle order who could take over the mantle of the ‘finisher’ and Pandey’s cracking unbeaten 104 off 81 balls was just the perfect audition.