Shreyas Iyer vs Rishabh Pant: Shreyas Iyer and not Rishabh Pant is the six-hitting machine India has been looking for
"He looked so certain about his shot making. The swing of his bat was clean and quick, almost reminiscent of Yuvraj Singh"
At 24, Shreyas Iyer is fairly young. Not as young as Rishabh Pant but still young enough to not get left out from the team just for his age. The present crop of selectors is pretty much obsessed with the ‘young’ word.
The next big thing on the cricket calendar is the T20 world cup. A tournament which India hasn’t won since MS Dhoni lifted the trophy with a rather un-fancied side. They say only he can win matches with a weak team. India has sent some fabulous players to subsequent T20 world cups. But the trophy has never returned.
Indian team has never been a powerhouse of the shortest format. And that’s when the country plays about two months of IPL cricket, the biggest cricket league in the world on all accounts. The critics claim India lacks at the power game. There are not just many players down the order who can whack the ball out of the park. The selectors it seems are in agreement with the critics. India’s search for a power-hitter in the middle is why Rishabh Pant is getting that extra-long rope. “Give him time, ignore him, don’t see him.. hide under the bed when he bats” and what not, there has been no shortage of excuses to back the young keeper. The selectors see in him something that the red cherry just can’t. It simply refuses to meet the middle of his bat.
Rishabh Pant’s current strike rate in T20Is is 118. And he has played 23 matches, pretty much long enough to get the six-hitting gene in him going. On the contrary, Shreyas Iyer has been awarded 11 caps till now and he is already striking at 132 with a better average than Pant. And it’s just not about the stats, it totally isn’t. And who would know it better than our X-factor obsessed selectors? It’s more about the ‘pitch-presence’.
Rishabh Pant’s T20 career has so far been all about confusion, poor shot selection, inconsistency, carelessness and lack of match awareness. You see him take the crease and you know what’s coming –stumps shattering or a catch down the throat of a boundary-rider. He just doesn’t reflect confidence or probably he is just not ready for international level. At times you feel somebody has airdropped him in the match and he just doesn’t know what to do.
And then there is Shreyas Iyer. When he came in to bat against Bangladesh in the third T20, there was an air of confidence about him. He looked so certain about his shot making. The swing of his bat was clean and quick, almost reminiscent of Yuvraj Singh. He smashed five sixes for his 62 which included three on the trot. You can sense it when he lifts that bat high up. The moment the ball meets his bat, you know where it’s going. He clears the ground with ease. And that’s not all about his game. He has the slower gears too. He knows how to steal singles and he requires no babysitting in understanding the match situation. If selectors are so focused looking for that ‘X-factor’, here it is and in plenty.
At times one feels, this Rishabh Pant experiment has become an obsession for selectors. It has grown into an ego issue. They have gone on-air and expressed their faith in him so many times that they just don’t want to be proved wrong by dropping him. It’s difficult to drop Rishabh Pant. He is a lovable cricketer. But that shouldn’t keep selectors from giving ample opportunities to Shreyas Iyer. He is already far ahead in the race which selectors want Pant to win. He is already the six-hitting machine which doesn’t break down at the highest level.