The ICC World T20, slated to begin at the start of the Australian summer, is still shrouded in uncertainty. While cricketing bodies around the globe have started chalking down plans for post-COVID-world, logistical issues pertaining to hosting 16 teams for nearly a month-long tournament pose a huge concern for Cricket Australia. But if ICC does go ahead with the plan, it will be a task cut out for all the team managements to get their side geared up for the tournament, especially after more than a two-month break from all forms of cricket.
India are among teams yet to decide their final 15 for the quadrennial event. From the batting lineup barring Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, to the back-up options for every department, the team management is yet to zero in on their plans and look to avoid the errors committed during the 50-over World Cup last year. One such headache pertains to the presence of Rishabh Pant in the squad.
He was India’s sole wicket-keeping option in limited-overs following MS Dhoni’s sabbatical before a head-injury in the Australia series in January changed his fortunes. KL Rahul made most of the opportunities in Pant’s absence and soon became India’s primary-choice wicket-keeping option in limited-overs cricket.
In this piece, we dissected Pant’s T20 numbers over the last two years, his performance as a middle-order batsman, stressing more on his No.4 statistics, while also focusing on his batting in the middle overs, all in a bid to prove why Pant should be part of India’s T20 batting lineup. And following that, we will look at the numbers that have ached his cause in being part of India’s plan.
Since 2016, Pant has scored 2146 runs in T20 matches which combines his run tallies in international and IPL matches. Only four players have scored more than Pant during the same time period - Rohit, Kohli, Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. However, what puts Pant ahead of his teammates is his is strike rate, boundary percentage and dot ball percentage. The youngster scores at a little above 9 runs per over and has an incredible boundary index of 99.15. No other Indian batsman stands even close to his numbers. And his dot-ball percentage of 35.51 is only bettered by Kohli, Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey. Pant, however, has a low rotation rate, which only stands ahead of Rohit's figure.
PANT’S SCORING METHODS…
Pant is primarily a middle-order batsman, both in IPL and in T20Is, and his numbers have been impressive at that position over the last two IPL seasons. Among batters with an average batting position between 3.5 and 7.5, and having faced a minimum of 270 deliveries, Pant has been the highest run-getter scoring 1172 runs at a phenomenal strike rate of 168.88 and with a boundary percentage of 24.35. His SR and boundary percentage are only bettered by Kolkata Knight Riders' Andre Russell (196.67 and 31.19) and Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman AB de Villiers (174.56 and 25.09).
Pant’s best-scoring position has been at No.4 - 989 runs in the last three IPL seasons at a phenomenal strike rate of 165.11 - the highest by a batsman at that position. In fact, he has been the sole century scorer at No.4 since IPL 2017, notching up an unbeaten 63-ball 128 against SRH in 2018 en route to which he had become the youngest to 1000 IPL runs. The only batsman (min. 100 balls) with a better strike rate than Pant has been RCB's Moeen Ali (184.16). Even De Villiers stands considerably behind Pant in terms of his SR at No.4 (151.85), a position he predominantly batted at in 2017 and 2018 season of the IPL.
Pant, with a total of 1194 runs in 38 matches while batting at No.4, also has a better strike rate among all Indian batsmen who have batted at that position in T20s since 2017.
The most important factor that adds to Pant's strength has been his imposing numbers in the middle overs, the zone considered to be the toughest in T20s for batters. While his tally of 676 runs over the last two IPL seasons has been the highest between overs 7 and 15, his RPO (Runs Per Over) of 8.82 is fourth-best (among batters facing a minimum of 200 deliveries) after CSK's Shane Watson (11.07), De Villiers (8.85) and former SRH captain Kane Williamson (9.23).
Top-10 run-getters in middle-overs in last two IPL seasons
|Batsman||Runs||BF||4s||6s||R.P.O||Boundary %||Rotation Rate|
|AB de Villiers||527||357||36||33||8.86||19.33||0.64|
Pant's middle-over numbers have been in fact better than any Indian in T20s over the last two years. Besides being the highest scorer with 873 runs, Pant also has the highest boundary percentage between overs 7 and 15 in T20s. However, his strike rate of 136.41 is the only behind Hardik Pandya's 145.93.
Top Indian run-getters in middle-overs in T20s in last two years
|Batsman||Runs||BF||R.P.O||Boundary %||Rotation Rate|
The key reason behind Pant’s impressive middle-over numbers has been his ability to take on the spinners better than any of his teammates. When looked at the career T20 strike rates against spinners, Pant's 147.06 stands well ahead while his number against pacers is only behind Hardik's 158.74.
WHAT ACHES PANT'S CAUSE?
Despite the 22-year-old's IPL domination, Pant has failed to emulate his performance in international cricket. The sheer numbers that screamed for his absence from the Indian batting lineup, took a significant dip in all the aforementioned categories.
The graphical representation clearly shows the significant dip in the scoring rates across all the categories he impressively exceled in IPL. From a T20I standpoint, the numbers fail to reflect the immense talent he wraps and hence Pant stands considerably behind with India having better options. But his IPL numbers are so imposing that it simply can't be ignored.
All Pant needs is a bit of backing from the team management. With T20 World Cup all certain to be postponed and the announcement likely to be made this week, Pant will get immense time to regain his old spot even as only a batsman. If World T20 is postponed, BCCI will surely bring forth IPL 2020, the tournament Pant would target to pave his way back in.