Karnataka hope Pandey hits stride

After watching Uttar Pradesh stars Suresh Raina and Mohammad Kaif train from close quarters, a couple of fans at the Bhambashah Stadium dragged their feet to other corner of field where Karnataka trained. But mid-way through their journey the star-stuck youngsters had second thoughts. "There's no point. they don't have star players like our Raina," said one as the couple took a U-turn out of the arena.

There was Manish Pandey, a under-19 World Cup winner and an IPL star, in the touring party but he isn't quite a household name. Pandey had started his journey to stardom quite well but later his pace got laboured and that means the dream destination is still miles away.

Two double centuries in first-class cricket, against Mumbai in Ranji Trophy (2011-12) and in the Duleep Trophy (2010-11) semifinal versus Central Zone, have reaffirmed belief that the 23-year-old Pandey (best known for becoming the first Indian to hit a century in the IPL) has the technique to play first-class cricket.

But precious time has been lost —through surgery-induced lay-off last season and lack of consistency — in Pandey's quest to take the next big step. Missing out on two India A tours; to the West Indies and New Zealand this year, has pushed Pandey down the pecking order.

"Last year after scoring the double century against Mumbai I had to undergo a hernia surgery and that put me on the sidelines. It was a difficult period for me as I thought that I was in good form and you don't want to miss out on a season just after scoring a double hundred. I was hoping to get picked for the India A tours but I didn't have enough runs to push my case. There were others who had made many more runs and deserved a chance," Pandey told The Indian Express on the eve of the Group B game versus Uttar Pradesh.

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