The T20 format in cricket is a ruthless one. It is a format which tests a player’s consistency like no other because the time to adjust and deliver is so less. The clock is always ticking for batters and it ticks faster for those who bat in the middle order. These batters often find themselves in situations where they have to make a quick decision about when to drop anchor and when to go on an all out attack. Those who are able to time this well, turn out to be match winners for their respective teams, and those who can’t often leave a lot to be desired.
One such player for the Indian cricket team is Rishabh Pant. The southpaw’s well-established big-hitting abilities make him a perfect fit for the format but he has failed deliver more often than not, something that was on display in the big Asia Cup Super 4 clash against Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday.
Pant came in to bat with India at 91/3 in 9.4 overs. A strong foundation was already in place and Virat Kohli was looking like a million dollars at the other end. Pant’s job was simple. Get the odd boundary away and hand over strike to Kohli and explode in the last 5 overs.
But what happened was just the opposite. He did hit two boundaries, one through a streaky outside edge, but he never looked comfortable at the crease. Pant wasn’t sure how to proceed with his innings and eventually fell to a lame reverse sweep.
Captain Rohit Sharma defended India’s approach by saying that the team has adopted a high risk policy. This would have held in Pant’s case had he been caught at the boundary trying to go for a maximum. The shot that he got out to wasn’t a percentage shot, given the field that was set for him, and there in lies his biggest challenge – shot selection.
A look at his numbers will reveal how much he has struggled in T20Is while playing for the national team. In 2022, Pant has scored 274 runs at the average of 24.9 from 14 innings in T20Is.
In his 49 innings so far, he has hit just three half-centuries and has just 9 knocks of over 30 runs.
But the biggest problem of it all is his career strike-rate, which is a lowly 126.16. It is a very low scoring rate for a batter who mostly bats in the second half of a T20I innings and Pant really needs to put thought in to how he wants to approach the format.
For now the onus is on the selectors and the Indian team management to find answers ahead of yet another T20 World Cup.
There are options available and Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid need to take some tough calls if they want to lift the trophy Down Under.
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