Sunday, April 2, 2023

The bowlers find Pant wide from outside and are silencing him.

The way a spirited Keshav Maharaj ran towards Temba Bavuma after dismissing Rishabh Pant in the fourth T20I at Rajkot, you knew it was a well-planned dismissal. In the 13th over of the innings, Maharaj bowled a fuller outside off. Pant, who was batting on 17 off 22 balls at the time, threw his bat at him and drove it to short third man.

But if you followed Pant’s dismissal earlier in the series, you already knew it was coming. In the second T20I, Maharaj had dismissed Pant with a similar wide delivery. It was the first ball of Maharaj’s spell. Pant went down the track in a pre-planned manner. Had he dropped it, he would have been stumped. So he reached out and was caught at the deepest point.

In the first T20I too, against Anrich Nortje, Pant fell on a wide delivery. Even if you cut him some slack there, as that was the last over of the innings where he had to throw caution to the wind, the pattern remains. Pant has fallen on the wide ball ten times in 19 T20 innings this year.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, who was commenting during the fourth T20I, said it was “not a good sign” that Pant was falling in the same trap again and again.

“He hasn’t learned,” Gavaskar said on Star Sports. “He hasn’t learned anything from his last three dismissals. He throws wide, and he keeps going for it. He’s had to stop going airborne outside the off-stump. There’s no way he’s going to get enough on him. Is .

“Ten times he’s been dismissed outside the off-stump. Some of them would have been called wide if he didn’t approach it. Because he’s too far, he’ll have to reach for it. He’ll never get enough power on him.”

In the post-match presentation, Pant was asked about the pattern of his dismissal. He said he could “look to improve in some areas” but “wasn’t thinking too much about it”.

But both the fast and spin bowlers seem to have done their homework. Pant’s most productive boundary shots include the slog and pull, but the bowlers haven’t learned to play him there. He is now bowling less at the stumps and instead goes wide out away from his hitting arc.

In 2020 and 2021, he bowled 32.6% of the deliveries at the stumps. This year the figure has come down to 29.6% so far. Meanwhile, the corresponding figure for the wide-out-of-stump line has increased from 9.7% to 14.3%.

Despite the diminishing returns in this series – 57 runs at an average of 14.25 and a strike rate of 105.55 – Pant’s total this year is not too bad. He has scored 457 runs at an average of 28.56 and strike rate of 145.54.

However, Dinesh Karthik’s resurgence has started a debate that Karthik, not Pant, should be India’s first-choice wicketkeeper in T20Is. Before the start of the South Africa series, there was a perception that if Karthik has to find a place in the playing XI, he has to be a pure batsman. But now Pant could very well be in that position.

While Pant’s overall numbers are decent, his middle-overs strike rate (136.09) in T20s this year is lower than most of the batsmen who have made it to the middle-order. In seven to 16 overs, Rahul Tripathi scored 160.00, Sanju Samson 144.34, Deepak Hooda scored 139.24 and Shreyas Iyer scored 137.12. Little wonder Suryakumar Yadav has only scored 131.63 in that stage, but all told, he averages 45.55 in 2022 at a strike rate of 155.89 in 11.

But Pant is mad. Besides that, he has one more thing in common: he is the only top six contender, apart from Ishan Kishan, to bat left-handed. If India dismiss Pant, the opposition can use either a legspinner or a conservative left-arm spinner, which mainly consists of right-handed batsmen.

However, India need to evaluate how much they will benefit from Pant being a left-handed batsman, while the right-handed batsman may have better numbers.

But then, at the start of the series, Pant himself said, “The kind of batting order we have, lefty-right is not a big deal for us because we play spinners day in and day out.”

Stats input by Shiv Jayaraman

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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