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India vs Bangladesh: Pant's Uncluttered Approach an Adrenaline Shot to India's Middle Order

Rishabh Pant's response to pressure situations shows the uncluttered thinking he brings to an Indian middle order badly in need of some energy.

Karthik Lakshmanan |July 3, 2019, 8:51 AM IST
India vs Bangladesh: Pant's Uncluttered Approach an Adrenaline Shot to India's Middle Order

Mustafizur Rahman has just bowled a potentially game changing 39th over. A double-wicket maiden that accounted for Virat Kohli in the 20s and Hardik Pandya for a two-ball duck. India had slipped from 180-0 to 237-4. There are questions over MS Dhoni's striking and finishing abilities. The only other batsman to come, Dinesh Karthik, is making his World Cup debut.

Conventional wisdom says India will stick to their 'percentage' cricket. See out a few overs, ensure you don't collapse majorly and then target bowlers in the end. It's not too hard to imagine Dhoni walking in and conveying the same to his partner.

But his partner was Rishabh Pant and he responded in his own style in the very next over. Four through covers, four through mid-wicket and a four through point. Three consecutive boundaries. Pressure released.

Pant's response shows the uncluttered thinking he brings to the middle order badly in need of some energy. Kohli and Rohit Sharma have no option but to try and bat long. KL Rahul has taken the role of an anchor. Dhoni always values his wicket, often a bit too much. Hardik Pandya is being used as a finisher/accelerator depending on the situation.

India's 'unique' approach of scoring runs without risks wasn't working, especially after they lost Shikhar Dhawan. They could well do with the Pant way of batting.

Pant has shown plenty of promise in the two knocks he has played from No. 4 this World Cup, although neither were big: 32 (29) vs. England and 48 (41) vs. Bangladesh. He has seen two different situations too; against England he came in with India needing 192 from 124 balls. Against Bangladesh he came in in the 33rd over after a solid start by the openers.

(Image: AP) (Image: AP)

No one would have raised eyebrows had Pant gone all out attacking but he didn't do that in either game. Even in the steep chase against England, Pant's first real slog - or cross-batted swat - came in his 19th ball after 35 overs. Until then the focus was on settling in while handing over the baton to Rohit Sharma.

What Pant was doing was looking to stitch partnerships while remaining busy with singles and the occasional boundary. He had played only five ODIs coming into the World Cup. He didn't have a great List A record either, averaging less than 30 in 42 matches. It was imperative that he learnt to play situations and he seemed intent on doing that. Batting coach Sanjay Bangar said that was the prime focus around Pant's preparation in the lead up to his first game.

"He's been on the sidelines for sometime. He's a player who has done really well at international level especially in Tests," Bangar had said after the loss to England. "ODI format is slightly newer to him, the team management and senior players are trying to help him with various mindsets and roles that come with the middle order job, and importance of right-left combination. As also, marrying that thought process with the ability that he possesses."

Pant married situation and his ability well in this game too. While he focused on batting long, he also ensured he took what came his way; after scoring only 1 run off his first six balls, he smashed off-spinner Mosaddek Hossain down the ground for a six to get going. Even two wickets falling in one over didn't stop him from scoring boundaries in the next.

With Dhoni settling in and looking to bat deep, Pant took the responsibility of scoring quick and perished in pursuit of a big hit narrowly missing out on a half-century.

But he had done enough to show promise that he can adapt to different challenges of the middle order. That Yuvraj Singh, one of the best middle-order batsmen from India, sees a potential No. 4 in Pant says a lot.

Pant's major challenge in the middle order will come when there is a top order failure - a 20 for 2 or 3 kind of start. But given the form of the top order this World Cup, India might not have to worry about the worst-case scenarios. Even in such situations it won't be a surprise if Pant adapts given the way he has begun his new challenge.

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2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 4366 104
5 Australia 3270 99
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1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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1 Pakistan 7748 277
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4720 262
4 India 8620 261
5 Australia 5471 261
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