Nitish Rana has been the Mr Consistent for Kolkata Knight Riders over the last few editions of the IPL and a regular performer at the domestic level too. He was in fine form at the beginning of the 2021 season for the Knight Riders scoring big runs in quick time at the top of the order. The aggressive left-hander has a strong chance of making it to the T20I squad for the Sri Lanka tour in July.
Rana has scored in excess of 300 runs every season between 2017-2020 and was on course to make it past the number for a fifth year running in 2021 too before the tournament was suspended due to the breach of the bio-bubble for Covid-19. The dynamic left-hander played a big role in the victorious campaign of the Mumbai Indians in 2017 – he was their best batsman in the initial part of the tournament returning with defining or supporting knocks in five of the first six matches.
Rana produced two Player of the Match performances – a 29-ball 50 batting at number three helping MI chase KKR’s 179 at home and 53 off 36 deliveries – again top-scoring for his team from the same position against the Gujarat Lions. Rana then blasted a magnificent unbeaten 62 off just 34 balls against the Punjab Kings in Indore – an innings that highlighted his ability to hit the long ball – he struck as many as 7 sixes in the knock as MI chased down 199 in the 16th over.
Rana’s best years in the IPL came for the Knight Riders in 2019 and 2020 when not only did he score big runs but also did so consistently at a high strike rate. He aggregated 344 runs in 14 matches at a strike rate of 146.38 in 2019 and 352 runs in as many matches at a rate of 138.58 in 2020.
He gave three high impact performances for the Knight Riders in 2019 all from different batting positions showcasing his versatility as a batsman. Rana almost pulled off a miraculous 214-chase against the RCB coming out to bat at 33 for 3 and remaining unbeaten in 85 off 46 deliveries. He smashed 68 off 47 balls in a successful 180-plus chase opening the innings against the Sunrisers and 63 off 34 deliveries batting at number 4 against the Punjab Kings.
Rana repeated his heroics in the next edition in the UAE too in what was otherwise a disappointing campaign for the Knight Riders. Two of the highest three individual scores in an innings came off the bat of Rana for the Knight Riders in 2020 – two high strike rate knocks in the 80s opening the innings when the other three batsmen in the top 4 had failed around him – this was a testimony of not only his ability to score big at a high strike rate but also of his temperament and mental toughness.
Rana started the 2021 season with a bang – he produced a Player of the Match performance in KKR’s opening fixture against the Sunrisers in Chennai. The left-hander blasted 80 off just 56 deliveries and followed that with another fifty against the Mumbai Indians – both as opener.
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With such numbers in the most coveted, respected and competitive T20 league in the world against some of the best bowlers in international cricket, it does not come as a surprise that a confident Rana expects a call-up for national duty for the limited overs series in Sri Lanka in July.
“It is there at the back of my mind that my name should come (in the squad) and I am prepared for that because I feel my name would come,” stated Rana.
Rana has not only excelled in the IPL but also in the premier competitions in the domestic circuit in India. He was in fine form for Delhi in the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – India’s premier T20 domestic competition hammering 183 runs in 5 innings at a strike rate of almost 165.
“If you pick and see my record for the last three years in white-ball – be it domestic or the IPL, I have performed well and I feel that I will get the reward for it today or tomorrow,” added Rana.
His breakthrough season came in 2015-16 when he amassed big runs across the three formats for Delhi. In his maiden first-class season, he scored 557 runs in 12 innings at an average of 50.63. Rana was in scintillating form in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy hammering 299 runs top-scoring for Delhi at a stunning strike rate of 175.88. His standout performance came against Andhra Pradesh when he smashed 97 off just 40 deliveries coming out to bat at 40 for 4.
Rana has done enough to merit a place in the T20 squad for the tour of Sri Lanka. His ability to score big runs at a high strike rate, a penchant to clear the ropes and his flexibility to move in the top five make him a very like-able candidate in the Indian top-order.
If he does get a chance in Sri Lanka and comes up with a few good performances it might just open the door for him for the World T20 in October-November.