In Match No. 42 of the 2017 edition of IPL, Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) were chasing a mammoth target of 209 against the Gujarat Lions. They were 24-1 having lost Karun Nair when Rishabh Pant arrived at the crease. He had one 50 plus score and three 30 plus scores prior to that innings though in the five previous innings his scores read 0,0,6,3 and 34. He got off the mark the very next ball he faced with a six over extra cover off Basil Thampi. Whoever was watching him for the first time then, the talent he possessed was obvious from that shot alone. What followed was a brutal assault as he smashed 6 fours and 9 sixes and along with Sanju Samson’s 61(31) pummeled Gujarat bowlers into submission. By the time he got out DD were 179-3 at 14.3 overs and went on to chase down the target with 15 balls to spare. He averaged 26.14 with a strike Rate of 165.61 in that year.
The 2018 edition of IPL was where he peaked. 684 runs at an average of 52.62 and a strike rate of 173.60 is simply insane. This included his only IPL century, 128(63) vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, where he reverse swept, paddled, pulled, muscled Rashid Khan and then meted out even more severe treatment to IPL great Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Kumar’s 18th and 20th over were taken for 18 and 26 runs respectively. It was the audacity and some ridiculous shots that Pant played that left everyone watching open mouthed spell bound, especially with the scoop shots over short third man and the now famous one handed six.
It is quite clear that there is no shot that Pant cannot play whether it is against spin or pace. And it was that season in 2018 which gave rise to expectations that Rishabh was going to redefine t20 batting in Indian cricket. But after 41 innings with an average of 23.13 and a strike rate of 123.95, he has not only performed well below expectations that he had set but also below the standards of a t20 batter batting at positions 4 and 5, where he has batted for 34 out of the 41 innings that he has played (as on 18-06-2022)
To give an idea about how other batters fared batting at these positions, here is a look at some data. Since Pant’s debut,
- The top 9 batters (in terms of batting strike rate) who have batted at 4 and 5 and played minimum of 20 innings, average atleast 25 and above with a strike rate of atleast140 and above, with the 10th batter being Najibullah Zadran from Afghanistan (Average-33.43, Strike rate-137.53). Glenn Phillips, with an average of 29.62 and strike rate of 156, tops that list.
- Glenn Maxwell is the standout batter with 1041 runs from 38 innings at a strike rate of 144.98 along with Shoaib Malik (34 innings, 879 runs, Average- 41.85 and Strike rate of 153.67).
- Rishabh Pant is at 22nd position on that list (34 innings, 618 runs, average-22.07, Strike Rate- 123.10).
Rishabh Pant vs Bowling types
Stat Credits: @cricmetric
Though the sample sizes are small, his strike rate is low against left arm medium (Sheldon Cottrell got him twice), right arm pace (getting out to Nortje, Milne, Archer and Taylor) and Right arm Off break (Narine got him once). He hasn’t dominated Left arm Chinaman in IPL and also failed to get going against it in internationals (though the sample size is insufficient) including Shamsi in the ongoing series. Also interesting is the fact that he averages only 6 vs Left arm orthodox getting out to it 7 times.
Let us take a look at his IPL career to get a broader idea about his t20 batting
Pant in IPL from 2016 to 2019
Pant in IPL from 2020 to 2021
Though his average didn’t change much, the drop off in strike rate from 162.7 to 121.4 was significant. The shift in venue of IPL from India to UAE probably played a role as it did with other batters. He struggled against leg break and Off break, from striking at 163.6 and 157.7 to 100.9 and 91.3 respectively though he averaged pretty well. It was the Right arm pace that troubled him more (Average- 16.7, SR-113.6, outs-7).
He had a much better 2022 IPL (Average-30.9, SR-151.79), though he continued to strike below 100 (95.7) against off break while his SR against leg break improved massively to 181. While his SR improved to 154, he averaged only 11 vs Right Arm Pace while getting out thrice to it.
For India, Pant has had the most impact in a format that he was probably least expected to and least impact in the format that he was most expected to. His 89 vs Australia at Gabba is imprinted in test cricket history while his t20 career is yet to take off. With the t20 world cup looming large, it remains to be seen whether he will be on that plane to Australia.
The ability is there to see but it’s the performance that counts and its inexplicable as to why he hasn’t cracked T20Is yet.