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IPL 2021: Rishabh Pant Needs To Play The Aggressor To Maximize Potential For The Capitals

By: Nikhil Narain

Last Updated: April 28, 2021, 17:22 IST

Rishabh Pant (Image: IPL/BCCI)

Rishabh Pant (Image: IPL/BCCI)

Rishabh Pant needs to play the role of the aggressor to maximize his potential for the Capitals. He cannot let captaincy tie him down and has to attack the opposition bowling as he has done over the years in the IPL.

It is not often that 25 are needed off the final two overs with Rishabh Pant at the crease and his side still ends up on the losing side. It is not often that Rishabh Pant remains unbeaten and his side still does not win the match. And it is also not often that Rishabh Pant scores at a rate lower than the match norm even after registering a T20 fifty! Well, all these ‘not so probable’ realities came true in Delhi Capitals’ one-run loss to the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

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Pant came out to bat with his side in a spot of bother at 28 for 2 in the 4th over which worsened to 47 for 3 in the 8th. The quintessential Pant would have mixed caution with aggression at this stage and selected which bowlers to target. He would have counter-attacked after getting himself in. But that was not the case at Motera on Tuesday. Pant, quite uncharacteristically decided to play the role of the anchor. He wanted to take the chase till the very end before he changed gears and took on the bowling. Thus, Pant was happy to rotate the strike and accumulate the runs while letting Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmyer attack from the other end.

This was a counter-productive strategy and the Capitals finally paid the price for it. Pant just scored 24 off the first 26 deliveries he faced in the innings with a solitary boundary. Yes, he was not at his best and failed to get the boundary in two to three attempts but there was not much urgency shown by the left-hander either. He was almost trying to do a Dhoni in taking the chase deep and then going for the assault! But in the process he let the required rate soar and the match slipped away from the Capitals’ grasp. At the end of 12 overs, DC had only managed to score 81 for the loss of three wickets and needed 11.38 per over for the last 8 overs.

Pant did not change to top gear even at the death and it was the West Indian who took it upon himself to go for the offensive. He reached his fifty only in the 20th over facing as many as 46 deliveries and left himself and the team with 10 to win off the last two deliveries. He got two boundaries sliced past point to end the match but that was not enough as the Capitals went down by one run. If only Pant had stepped on the accelerator a bit earlier? If only he had taken a little more risk and displayed more urgency earlier in the innings the result could have been very different.

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While Hetmyer exceeded expectations with his magnificent 53 off 25 deliveries, Pant ended on a scratchy and patchy out of sorts 58 off 48 deliveries. He had a strike rate of 120.83 whereas the strike rate required was 142.5. Pant did not hit a single six in the innings which is a rarity in any Pant innings in any format. With the exception of his performance against the Royals (51 off 32 deliveries), Pant has scores of 15 off 12 balls, 7 off 8 balls, 37 off 27 balls and 15 off 16 balls in the tournament.

Pant was not at his destructive best in IPL 2020 in the UAE too. Although he aggregated 343 runs he did so at a poor strike rate of 113.95. He had lost his hitting ability completely in the edition. But that cannot be the case in 2021. Pant has had a great four to five months for India in international cricket where he has dominated Australia in their own backyard and England at home with one match-defining performance after the other. One of the hallmarks and the common connect between most of these performances has been the rate at which he has scored his runs counter-attacking the best attacks in the world.

So the question remains what is bogging down Pant in IPL 2021? Why is he even trying to play the role of the anchor when he has tasted so much success being the playmaker and aggressor? One possible explanation could be the added burden of captaincy which is making him play, according to him in a more measured and responsible manner.

He does not want to take undue risks and wants others around him to go after the bowling while he leaves the attack till the very end.

If true, this sort of mindset and strategy can be counter-productive to the Capitals as it was against the Challengers. Pant is at his best when he attacks the opposition bowling. His best returns in the IPL and in other forms of the game have come when he has played the aggressor and torn into the bowlers. Pant aggregated 488 runs in 2019 at a rate of 162.66 and 684 runs in 2018 at a strike rate of 173.6. It is his career strike rate of almost 150 which separates him from the rest of the batsmen and gives him that X-factor.

Pant needs to go back to playing his A-game for the Capitals. It is that game which has instilled fear and intimidated the best bowling attacks all over the world. Pant – the captain cannot come in the way of Pant – the aggressive batsman and the match-winner he has been with the bat for the Capitals.

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first published:April 28, 2021, 17:16 IST
last updated:April 28, 2021, 17:22 IST