The big call the selectors had to make when selecting the India team for the ICC World T20 2016 was – Ajinkya Rahane or Manish Pandey; the established India team player or the man who had impressed with a matchwinning century against Australia. While the selectors eventually made the right decision in picking Rahane, Pandey was extremely unlucky to miss out on being a part of the India squad for the World T20 at home.
Good things, though, come to those who wait, and after waiting and watching India cling on in the tournament thanks to the heroics of Virat Kohli, Pandey might just be thrown an opportunity to come and make his mark in the World T20, after Yuvraj Singh was injured.
There is absolutely no doubt that Yuvraj will be missed. He gives skipper MS Dhoni the left-arm spin option that could be so handy against the right-handers, as he showed in the must-win game against Australia, and he has the temperament and skill to bat India out of trouble, like he did in the company of Kohli against Pakistan and Australia.
In the Asia Cup as well, Yuvraj showed those battling qualities while also bringing out his big-hitting chops a couple of times, which might have come useful on the expected batting belter at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai for the semifinal against the West Indies.
Instead, after rolling his ankle while playing a shot to the onside in the match against Australia, Yuvraj will watch the rest of the tournament – could be just one more game, but could be two massive, massive matches as well – from his couch, recuperating that sore left ankle.
One man's misfortune is another man's gain and that gain could be Pandey's. While Rahane is the existing reserve batsman in the squad, his batting ability in the T20 game at No.5 is not the greatest. Yes, Dhoni can push Rahane up to No.4 and bring Suresh Raina, who could use a shakeup, down a place, but even No.4 is not the best of position for Rahane.
He is the kind of batsman who needs the open spaces to hit the boundaries, unless you are ready to give him time, making him best suited to open the innings. Rahane has a good case to come in for the out-of-form Shikhar Dhawan, but if it is a replacement for Yuvraj, Dhoni is looking at, Pandey might be the better fit.
Pandey bats up the order for KKR, but he has the ability, as he showed in that wonderful century against Australia, to finish a game off, to get those boundaries in the second half of the innings, and that, in the T20 game, is an invaluable ability to have.
While not picking Rahane, after the Mumbaikar has sat on the bench for the entire tournament, will not be a popular decision, the fact that Pandey has a lot more to give at the No.4 or No.5 batting position might just tilt the balance in his favour.
Rahane is a wonderfully-talented batsman and one well worth persevering with in the limited-overs formats, but for this one match, a semifinal of the World T20, where every single boundary could be crucial, Pandey might be the way to go, even if he is coming out of the cold.