Despite the constant change since his debut in July 2015, his commitment has remained unchanged. The 30-year-old, who has played 38 T20 Internationals and 26 One-dayers, hasn’t let the constant flux unsettle him. In an exclusive chat with TOI, Pandey spoke on the tour of New Zealand, his new role and on the T20 World Cup ahead.
How do you sum up the season so far?
I’m happy with the season so far, even if the opportunities I got were very limited and I haven’t been able to showcase my entire repertoire of skill. That said, I’m pretty happy with the opportunities I got, even in the New Zealand series, and that I could make use of it. I’ve been batting well through the season and would like to continue this form for India and Karnataka.
Your thoughts on your performance in New Zealand in particular…
I got some runs and tried to finish the game for the team. Even the one chance that I got in the One-dayers (42 in Mount Maunganui), I thought it was pretty good. The situation was a little dicey, but I think I did well.
How have you adapted to batting at No 6?
The No 6 slot is not what I’ve practiced for in all these years. I’ve always been a top-order batsman. But when you have competition like the kind we have in the Indian team right now, I have to be thankful that I’m getting that opportunity. Second, it is not easy to bat at No 6, but I think I’ve done that for India for a while now. Even in T20s and the chances I’ve got in ODIs, I’ve been batting at five and six. So, I think I’m getting used to this. I’ve also batted at No 7. Given the competition, whatever chances you get, you have to make the best of them.
What’s the kind of adjustment you need to make mentally?
More than the mental aspect, for me it is about approach and how I see the situation. My reading of the situation is simple. I would any day take batting at No 6 than not playing or being part of the playing XI. Even if I get an opportunity to bat just six balls, I will try and do my best. To be honest, that’s what I’ve been doing. I did well in the domestic T20s and Vijay Hazare. Going into international assignments, I wanted to continue with that form. That’s what I did. I’m pretty happy where I am and would like to continue giving that kind of performances.
What about adjustments you have to make to you game?
I haven’t changed much because it’s about altering the approach and intent. You have to be in the zone at all times. You can’t be sitting around and chilling. You have to be aware and prepared to alter your approach instantly because you don’t have much time to react. You either get a chance when the team has lost a few wickets early on, or you get to bat in the last couple of overs where you have to just go play an aggressive brand of cricket. It’s not easy, but I’m always looking to score runs for whichever team I play at whatever position.
More often you are sitting out of matches than playing. Has age and experience made you mentally tougher?
When you are not in the playing XI, it does affect to some extent. But as an individual, it’s your call how much you want circumstances to affect you. If I’m not playing, I don’t like to sit around and sulk. I don’t entertain negative thoughts which will only deteriorate my game and mindset. I believe in enjoying the moment and being grateful for what I’m doing. I can only control what I can do and that is to work on my fitness, batting and fielding skills. I’ll continue to do that without worrying about the selection process, which is not in my control. Over the years, what’s worked for me is the positive approach and passion I have for the game. That hasn’t changed with time.
But when you were younger, did it bother or frustrate you when your contemporaries got ahead of you in international cricket?
Not really because, if I have anyone to blame, it has to be myself. Maybe, I couldn’t grab as many opportunities as I should have. But, to get to where I am today, I’ve worked really hard on a lot of aspects of the game. I’ve made sure that I’ve got a lot of runs and I would always want to do that. I can’t undo what’s happened in the past, so it is best to stay in the present and work on a better future. That’s what I’ve been doing.
You went into international assignments at home and in New Zealand on the back of a strong domestic showing as a player and captain. How much did that help?
Playing on the domestic circuit helps a lot. I’ve always taken domestic cricket seriously. I take a lot of pride in playing for Karnataka. I had the opportunity (in limited-overs) of leading a wonderful side. It makes me really happy when I turn match-winner. To be able to contribute for the team success is very satisfying. Whether it is for Karnataka or India, I play with the same intensity.
I wouldn’t want to change much. I think I’ll bat at No 3 and I’ll probably try and push for that spot in the IPL because that gives me more opportunities to express myself, get runs and then return to the Indian side. I know I may not bat at No. 3 for India but if I can do well in the IPL, I’ll carry with me the confidence of having got a lot of runs in the IPL. It will give me enough time to reflect on my batting and learn from situations as well. Also, if I bat up the order and get as many runs as possible, I can carry that form into the World Cup. I’m hoping I can be the match-winner in as many matches as possible.