New Delhi: He started his career as an equally talented U-19 cricketer like his illustrious peer Virat Kohli but Manish Pandey believes his former India colts colleague "fully deserved to play for the country" ahead of him.
Six years since their U-19 World Cup win in Kuala Lumpur, Kohli has established himself with 29 Tests, 140 ODIs and 28 T20 Internationals in his kitty but the 25-year-old Pandey feels that he will do everything to make it a memorable international career for himself.
"Virat evolved beautifully since that U-19 World Cup in 2008. He grew as a cricketer and he deserved to play for India much earlier than anyone else. He was completely ready to play for India at that time. Having said that, I don't think it's fair to draw a comparison between myself and Virat," Pandey told PTI during an interaction after his selection in the Indian team.
It took Pandey some time to break the national deadlock but now that he has got the breakthrough, he does not want to let it go.
"Undoubtedly, today is one of the best days of my career. You wait for that chance to don the India colours. That's why you play the game and want to perform at the best of your abilities. Since the door has finally opened for me, I want to make best use of it and play for the country for a long time," said an elated Pandey.
Pandey feels that post his match-winning innings of 94 in the IPL final, he was hopeful that he might be rewarded.
"Obviously, this year's IPL performance was a big plus for me. I was in good form and was consistent. IPL final was a big platform and I was happy to have contributed in KKR's winning cause," said Pandey, who was second-highest scorer for Kolkata Knight Riders with 401 runs at an average of 30.84 and a healthy strike-rate of 117.94.
"The best part about scoring in the IPL is the quality of bowling attack you play through the entire tournament. It's of international standard and when you score runs against the top bowlers in world cricket, you know that you have the ability. That helps in building confidence and self-belief."
There has been a lot of criticism of Pandey being too aggressive and throwing away his wicket after a good start but the elegant right-hander, who has played 57 first-class and 62 List A matches apart from 106 T20s, does not want to change his style of play.
"Look, I have a particular style of batting and the idea is to remain aggressive as a player. I would never ever trade anything for that. I like playing my shots and will stick to that," Pandey said.
Pandey had a very good Ranji Trophy back in 2008-09 when he scored loads of runs including a big hundred in the final, which they narrowly lost to Mumbai.
"I was in the probables for the World T20 that year. Now that I have got an opportunity, I am determined to make best use of it," he concluded.