Centurion: Indian batsman Manish Pandey says he has endured a tough time waiting for his sporadic chances, asserting that he has what it takes to be a regular pick in the star-studded middle order if given a longer rope.
Pandey, who scored 79 not out off 48 balls in the second T20I in Centurion which South Africa won by six wickets to level the three-match series 1-1, has been at best a irregular selection even though he has made most of his chances count with fine knocks, including hundreds on ODI debut and in his first one-dayer in Australia.
"Honestly, it's a little tough (waiting for chances) and it works on your mind a lot. Especially on this tour, I have felt it a lot actually but that is what cricket is all about. You have to wait for your chances to play for a team like India where you have so many stars and legend after legend (in the team). So I am trying my bit there," he said after the match last night.
"I have got a few chances at No 4 and I have delivered. So the batting combination some times pushed me down to No 5. I have tried my bit (at No 5), but I also feel that I could probably do a little bit more with myself," he said.
But he does understand the enormity of the task at hand even though Pandey has the belief that with a more consistent run in the side, he can prove himself worthy of regular selection.
"... India has a really good top-order lineup and they bat out nearly 30-35 overs in ODIs with guys like Virat (Kohli), and then MS Dhoni comes ahead of me (at times). So yeah, with some more chances, I feel I can deliver a lot more than what I am doing right now."
Pandey sat out the entire ODI series and didn't come into the side even when Kedar Jadhav was injured with Shreyas Iyer preferred in his place.
Pandey, who had scored the first Indian Premier League (IPL) hundred by an Indian batsman at Centurion back in 2009, said it is tough following in the footsteps of the likes of Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh who have batted before at No 5 for India.
"I was waiting to play here. Even in the ODIs, I was trying to squeeze my chances in but that didn't happen. But in the T20Is, it has been good and Centurion has always been good to me. I still remember the hundred I got here about 9-10 years ago, so it is good to always bat here," he said.
"As I said, it is tough playing for India at No 5. The people who have batted at this spot before me, like Raina and Yuvi, well, it is also tough to fill in their shoes. Over the last couple of years, Indian batting has also been doing very well. So you have to be very patient for your chances, he added.
Pandey admitted he was a bit slow in his first outing on this tour at the Wanderers, where he scored 29 not out off 27 balls.
In this second game though, Pandey did it very well as he put on 98 off 56 balls with Dhoni.
"From ball one, you have to go for it. That's what I tried to do in the first game but I played a little slow. It happens coming back after a long time and staying here. It was in my mind a little bit but today was a good day for me.
"I want to continue playing the way I have always played. That's how I have to keep squeezing my chances in there, he said.
India scored 62 runs off the last five overs to end the innings at 188 and Pandey credited Dhoni for the fireworks.
"Mahi just woke up," he added, with a laugh.
"That was his chance. He is the best when he bats lower down the order. He takes a couple of overs, looks to dominate and that's what happened."
Pandey said they were thinking 170 would be a good score initially as South Africa were bowling a tight line and length.
"South Africa bowled well and at the start we were thinking about 170 to finish with. Then Mahi and I got that partnership. A couple of inside edges went to the boundary. There were also some great shots by Mahi that took us to 188, so we were thinking these are bonus 20 runs," he said.
Heinrich Klaasen smacked the quickest T20 half-century by a South African batsman to help take his side home with six balls to spare and Pandey said he was not surprised by the manner in which he played.
"I have seen Klaasen play for South Africa A and he got us a hundred against us two years ago. This is how he played against us as well, and he has been getting runs for a while like this now. In the ODIs, he was a little under the cap but he is coming out well now. He is trying to seal his spot in the South African team, so all the best to him," he added.
The series has been set up for a finish on Saturday and Pandey said, "It is good to win one each (1-1) and South Africa played really well today. Now it is a little more interesting again.