When KL Rahul was ruled out of the first two games of the Asia Cup because of a niggle, it was a given that Ishan Kishan would get into the playing XI as a wicketkeeper-batter.
But it triggered a debate about what spot he would take in the batting order. The aggressive left-hander has enjoyed tremendous success batting at the top of the order, be it for Mumbai Indiansin the IPL, or the limited chances he has had playing for Team India.The Jharkhand lad had a productive outing in the West Indies in July, slamming three half centuries as an opener on wickets that were not exactly friendly.A couple of low scores in the T20I series that followed in the Caribbean and the manner of his dismissals – in which he often lost his shape while trying to essay the big shot – prompted the team management to bench him and hand a debut to Yashasvi Jaiswal for the last three T20Is. It wasn’t the first time Kishan had lost his spot. He has been deemed to be curiously disposable by the management, despite offering an attractive package as an aggressive left-hander and ‘keeper.
One wonders why. Only in December last year, he had cracked the fastest ODI double century in Chattogram against Bangladesh, a stroke-filled 210 off just 131 balls with 24 fours and 10 sixes. Many thought that he would be a perfect alternative for another prolific left-handed opener, Shikhar Dhawan. That he was a ‘keeper only raised his stock. The knock should have been enough to cement his position as an opener for a couple of series.
But he lost his position in the following series against New Zealand to Shubman Gill and the returning Rohit Sharma. On Saturday, despite Kishan’s success as an opener in previous games, India chose to bat him in the middle-order at No. 5 as Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill opened the batting. Both have struggled lately.
Coming in to bat with India having lost three wickets for 48 in the 10th over and the Pakistani pacers breathing fire, Kishan showed another side to his game that one had not seen much of before. A sound defensive technique while playing off the back foot.
It allowed him to get vital singles square off the wicket and get his eye in before he expanded his repertoire of strokes. That was after he had essayed a violent upper cut off Haris Rauf for six over third man off the seventh ball he had played.
Aggressive batters often take the easy bait of “trying to play one’s natural game” and getting out while often attempting the impossible, even ludicrous. That temptation was there for Kishan on Saturday as Babar Azam employed the finger spin of Salman Ali Agha and Mohammad Nawaz.
One thought the patience threshold would break for Kishan and he would hole out in the deep while losing his shape, again. However, he showed the maturity to use the large playing field to manoeuvre the ball to run ones and twos with Hardik Pandya, with whom he added 138 runs for the fifth wicket.
The six that he struck off Nawaz straight over his head was a good example of Kishan maintaining his shape while going big. While his 210 vs Bangladesh would be difficult to emulate, in his own mind, the keeper-bat would probably rate Saturday’s knock a bit higher for the situation it came in.
May be the 93 he struck vs South Africa in his home town of Ranchi would be another knock he would rate on par with the one on Saturday.
While he may have rendered himself indispensable now barring an injury, his success in the middle-order has given India a welcome headache.
What to do once KL Rahul comes back?