Ever since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has excluded Mahendra Singh Dhoni from its central contracts, both experts and fans have started feeling a vacuum. The 38-year-old has not played for India since the semi-final loss in the ICC World Cup in England last July but people have kept on waiting for his return.
On the ground, too, India are yet to find a worthy replacement for the ace wicketkeeper-batsman who has served them over the years as one of the best finishers. A number of players have been tried and tested but India are yet to find the perfect combination in the limited-over formats.
However, following India’s come-from-behind series win over Australia recently, batsman Manish Pandey’s name is making the rounds as somebody who can go close to Dhoni’s finishing skills. The 30-year-old though did not make any big contributions with the bat, his eight not out off four balls in the deciding clash in Bengaluru on Sunday was an icing on the cake that many appreciated.
He came out after Virat Kohli fell in the 46th over with 12 more to get and he finished it off in style. Even in the third T20I against Sri Lanka in Pune before the Australia series, Pandey’s 31 not out off 18 balls at No.4 played a crucial role in giving India’s scoring a boost and they won the match eventually.
Pandey though was among the discards till recently, good shows as the captain and batsman in domestic cricket have seen him evolve as a player. Pandey has played in 25 ODIs and 33 T20Is to score over 1,000 runs and has one ODI hundred which was against Australia in Sydney.
Former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar feels Pandey has it in him to fill the big shoes of Dhoni. Speaking in his YouTube channel, the 44-year-old said: “Hindustan ko akhir Dhoni ka replacement mil gya (India has finally got Dhoni’s replacement), they have found a good fit in Manish Pandey. Shreyas Iyer too looks a complete player and these add depth to India’s batting.”
‘They know how to handle pressure’ – Shoaib Akhtar
Akhtar also said on the likes of Pandey and Iyer that they have played a lot in tournaments like the Indian Premier League and know how to handle the pressure.
“They do not care about big names and hence, end up playing important innings. I think it was a great series, characters were shown, players were willing to fight. Even when the innings ended, Iyer and Pandey were speaking about the batting while they were walking off the field. These players understand the game, they keep discussing the game,” the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ who has 444 international wickets, said.
Akhtar also said that India bullied Australia in Bengaluru; toyed around with them as if they were kids.
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