The team management eventually decided to send Pant to keep the left-right combination.
Its been a long-standing saga. One that has the potential to put any daily-soap to shame. Yep! That No.4 spot. No matter its One-day cricket or Twenty20 cricket, every game that the Indian team plays these days, editorials galore debating or opinioning the perfect No.4 candidate.
And, at the heart of that raging debate has been Rishabh Pant. The Delhi wicketkeeper-batsman has been under intense scrutiny not only for the runs or the lack of it but also the manner in which he has been constantly getting out. Before the series in the West Indies, Virat Kohli made it clear that they would give Pant a long rope to prove his credentials and ultimately nail the No.4 spot.
But, despite the 65 not out that he made in the last T20I against the West Indies, the wicketkeeper-batsman has registered five single-digit scores in the past six innings. Add the repetitiveness of the mistakes and Shreyas Iyer’s impressive performance in the One-day series in which he displayed all the ingredients required to be a successful middle-order batsman to it, and the debate is well and truly on as to who should bat at No.4 in T20Is for India.
Two batsmen stepped out to bat at No. 4
And, so during the 3rd T20I between India and South Africa, India was caught in an awkward position when they had two batsmen walking out to bat at No,4. When Dhawan got out, both Rishabh Pant & Shreyas Iyer strode out, but team, emerging from either side of the sightscreen, completely unaware of each other and who was supposed to bat at the said position. The team management eventually decided to send Pant to keep the left-right combination. However, Indian skipper Virat Kohli was dismissed for 9 soon thereafter bringing Iyer to the crease with the left-handed Pant.
This was an ideal opportunity for the duo to not only stake their claim but also effect a match-winning partnership for India but, unfortunately, either batsman could not do much as left-arm spinner Bjourn Fotuin dismissed both of them in the same over. Pant [19 off 20 balls] played a few delightful strokes before mistiming one straight to Andile Phelukwayo, Iyer [5 off 8 balls].was flummoxed by the bowler, who pre-empted the batsman’s charge and darted the ball on the leg side, only for de Kock to effect an easy stumping.
India could never recover from the back-to-back dismissals and kept losing wickets at regular intervals, ultimately finishing with a hugely under-par 9-134 after 20 overs; a total which was overhauled by the Proteas in 16.5 overs thanks to skipper De Kock’s unbeaten 52-ball-79
Kohli clears the air in the post-match presser
Skipper Virat Kohli, who was out in the middle when the entire drama unfolded, went on to admit in the post-match press conference that there indeed has been a “communication problem” between team management and the two players.
“I think there was a miscommunication there. I understood it afterwards,” Kohli said after the match. “The batting coach (Vikram Rathour) had a word with both of them and there was a misunderstanding about who had to go [out] at what stage of the game. It was a little funny as well because they both wanted to walk in.”
With the pressure intensifying on the misfiring Pant at the No.4, there have been calls for Pant and Iyer to swap places, allowing the former to play his natural game lower in the order. Virat Kohli, though, alluded that they had planned according to the phase of play.
“We had it planned according to phases. After 10 overs we had decided Rishabh would walk in; before that Shreyas had to walk in. But both of them got confused and didn’t realize who has to walk in at what stage of the game.”
It did not really matter in the end though as both the batsmen failed to grab their opportunity, ironically falling in the same over against the left-arm spin of Fortuin.