Abu Dhabi: On a high after playing a crucial role in Kolkata Knight Riders' stunning IPL win over defending champions Mumbai Indians, Manish Pandey said reuniting with Jacques Kallis, the veteran with whom he previously played in the Royal Challengers Bangalore team, helped him rediscover some lost form. Pandey's 64 and Kallis' 72 were the cornerstones of KKR's 163-run total, which helped them clinch a 41-run win over the fancied Mumbai.
The duo's 131-run stand was the highlight of the IPL's opening match. "When I went out there to bat, I remembered the old times when I batted with him and I realised nothing had changed. It was exactly the same batting with Jacques again and I could feel that same comfort level. We had a lot of partnerships together with RCB and we know each other's games well. We kept talking throughout our time together in the middle," Pandey said.
"The best thing about the partnership was the communication. Right from the very beginning, we decided that we need to stick it out here and build a good partnership because it wasn't easy to bat on this wicket initially. So, the plan was cut out very clearly and we executed it to a tee," he told IPL's official website.
Reflecting on his IPL career so far, Pandey conceded that he lost his way after becoming the first Indian to score a hundred in the tournament in 2009. "I think I was a bit off the radar. I wasn't consistent. I was doing well at the domestic level, in first-class cricket, but I couldn't bring that in the IPL."
"Although I played a couple of decent knocks for the Pune franchise, I knew that as a top-order batsman, I had to start converting the starts into big scores consistently. I am glad I have started this tournament with a good knock and I hope to be consistent now," Pandey said.
Asked if that memorable hundred put him under pressure, Pandey replied in the negative. "It wasn't the case of putting pressure on myself, to be honest. I think I wasn't playing the game I did in the first couple of IPL seasons. I believe I should have put in a little bit more effort," he said.
"People's expectations had increased from me after that century and I should have tried harder to live up to it. I should have gotten used to it, but I couldn't. I will try my best to rise up to that standard again and then live up to it this time," he added.
On playing under Gautam Gambhir's captaincy, Pandey said he has enjoyed the stint so far. "I spoke to him only a few days after the auction. We were playing against each other at the domestic level and he had a nice chat with me. He made my role in the KKR setup very clear and told me what he expects off me," he said.
"He set goals for me for this season and encouraged me to achieve them without sacrificing on my own style of playing cricket," he added.