Ranji Trophy 2022 – Manish Pandey on playing for Karnataka: ‘I feel like I’m at my best here’
Reaching the final is always a goal. And then to win the trophy. That’s what we’re always looking for. It is not only for Karnataka but also overall. Cricket is a result oriented game, the better we do, the better people talk about us. Qualifying for knockouts is something we talked about before the tournament started, and now that we’ve achieved that, our goal will be to play every match at 100% and look to win the final, which we haven’t. not done for a long time. a few years now [not since 2014-15, when they completed back-to-back Ranji triumphs].
The quarter-final against Uttar Pradesh will be your 95th first-class game. How do you reflect on this trip?
Personal performance affects you sometimes, but every time Karnataka doesn’t qualify for knockouts or win, which we haven’t done in a while, it bothers me as a player. The goal as a group has been to develop a good group of players for the years to come, that’s something we’re looking to do as a team. There will be ups and downs, but I think I did pretty well being part of this team. [for a long time]. One thing is clear to everyone: no one is indispensable. This cap was never free for anyone. We have all worked hard for this. This hard work and [hunger] still keeps me going today. I will play my 95th match with the same intensity as my first.
You have been playing top class cricket since 2008. At 32, what is the key driver for you?
Striving for success, to improve yourself and the team. I don’t want to be someone who lets the team down. It’s something that motivates me and drives me forward. In Karnataka, we work on our physical condition as well as our skills. The group of new guys we have are some of the fittest. The goal is to see that they are all willing and able [to contribute] and put in the tough yards. It’s great to see this group of young and fit players looking to do well for Karnataka.
“My intention is to get runs whether it’s red-ball cricket or white-ball cricket. Few changes. In red-ball cricket, if you see, my hitting rate is slightly higher. I’m always at searching for races.”
Manish Pandey on transitioning from T20 to premier class cricket
As a hitter, you are coming back from a turbulent T20 season. How much will it take to adapt to the red ball format now?
The only thing that remains constant is batting intent. My intention is to get points, whether it’s red-ball or white-ball cricket. Not many changes. In red ball cricket, if you see, my strike rate is slightly higher. I’m always looking for races. Other players may have different ways of coping [moving] from T20 to red ball cricket, but for me it’s about looking for runs, staying in a positive frame of mind. This allows me to continue.
When you play for Karnataka, it looks like you have extra batting equipment.
Whenever I come back from the IPL or a long tour, that’s when I most look forward to coming back. I feel like I’m at my best here [Karnataka set-up] with the coaching staff and the players we have. Plus, the added responsibility as captain means you have to be in charge and lead the team. I like the added responsibility; it helps me and helps ensure that the guys in the XI that we have always give 100% to make Karnataka a better team.
How do you predict your opponents?
Regardless of the opposition, star or not, we don’t see it that way. We also have a lot of star players, who have played well for years and years. As hitters, we watch the ball, not the pitcher. It’s our motto. Improve the team, improve the cricket they get from us. This gives us the extra push.
It’s a team in transition. With hardly any first-class games in the past two years [due to the pandemic]it must have been a challenge to prepare the players.
The kind of cricket everyone plays at junior level, we expect them to play a similar brand of cricket at Ranji level as well. You don’t need to come here and change a lot. As senior players and coaches, our job is to make them comfortable on this platform. If you can do that, you can get the most out of players. It’s about communication and how the coaches make them feel. The treatment everyone gets here – we’re all on the same page. It’s about making them feel comfortable and being part of the team. If that doesn’t happen with a new player, if the communication isn’t good, you’ve seen how many people have lost in the past. This is a mistake we don’t want to make. For this match, we called on a youngster named Kishan Bedare. We asked him questions about his projects, his way of acting, what he likes to do and the kind of role he wants. If you can do that, you don’t need a lot of time to make a good XI. That’s how we roll.
“I put the same number of hours [into fielding] like my staff. I love giving myself that extra push and fire to make us a better unit on the pitch, which can go a long way towards the success of the team.”
Manish Pandey on his focus on the pitch
We never had a problem [in the fast-bowling department]. We’re at a stage where when the senior guys left, we saw young, fast bowlers come in and do well. Yes, they don’t have many games under their belt, but they did well in the games we gave them.
We’ve seen you dive in and spend as much time on your game as your hitter. Is that something you also impress on the rest of the team?
I can’t drive at 140 km/h. So I prefer to put time and effort into something that I can do for the team collectively. The pitch is a crucial part of cricket and I really enjoy doing it and make sure I train a few guys to take them up a notch with the pitch. I put the same number of hours [into fielding] like my staff. I love giving myself that extra push and fire to make us a better unit on the pitch, which can go a long way towards team success. If you can do it, you can lead by example, and I love doing that.
Shashank Kishore is Senior Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo