Over the past few days, Sunil Gavaskar has been direct in his assessment of the batting of Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and KL Rahul, and the tweaks he wishes to see in each of them to continue doing well in T20s.
Let’s start with the opener KL Rahul, who hit a fifty in a T20 game against Australia, but didn’t score much in the other two games.
Gavaskar reckoned Rahul sacrificed his wicket. “He was doing what the team was expecting him to do which was both the times, you saw he got a fifty in the first game but in the second game, where he had to throw the bat from the first ball because it was an 8-overs-a-side game, he sacrificed his wicket for the team,” Gavaskar told Star Sports.
If the run-rate is high, as the case might repeatedly be in chases during the world cup, Rahul can’t of course be sacrificing his wicket – if that means throwing his wicket. Gavaskar has a specific change he desire to see in Rahul.
A change that he wants Virat Kohli also to adopt.
“Like Kohli, when Rahul is playing proper cricketing shots, then he is unstoppable. But when these two players are trying to swing across the line, that is not their strength. They can play across the line when they come to the front foot and flick it that away but trying to play that cross-batter shot, they get into trouble. If they try to avoid that, they will keep scoring runs consistently,” Gavaskar said.
In the third T20, too, Rahul had tried a heave-ho to the leg side and skied it for a catch.
Virat Kohli was out twice, once in Asia Cup and once against Australia, going for across-the-line heaves.
When he fell to Sri Lanka’s Dilshan Madhushanka in the Asia Cup, slogging across the line, Gautam Gambhir chirped up on air: “Bad shot to be honest; he went too across instead of straighter”.
It’s a shot Kohli doesn’t usually play: the swipe across the line. Normally, when he wants to hit a length ball from a seamer in that direction, he would choose his signature swat-flick, where he gets in line of the ball, and bottom-hand whips it to onside. The ball from the left-handed Dilshan Madhushanka landed on a length on the middle-stump line and uprooted the middle stump, as Kohli stayed adjacent to the line and went for a slog. Even when well-settled, this is a shot that he usually doesn’t play and it’s not a surprise that he couldn’t make contact.
Gavaskar has had a comment on Pant’s batting. He wants Pant to “improve his off-side play” in T20s so that he doesn’t have to get in trouble trying to “predetermine” his shots.
“Rishabh Pant has to improve his off-side play,” Gavaskar said. “He is quite a pre-determined batsman and ends up going for things which aren’t there as a result,” Gavaskar said. “He has to strengthen his off-side play; he can still hit the sixes but once he gets the off-side play, and then he can be unstoppable.”
Gavaskar and Adam Gilchrist have already said that they see both Pant and Dinesh Karthik in the playing eleven, though Matthew Hayden has said there is just space for one: and that should be Pant.
“On big grounds (in Australia), Pant has the shots to clear them. I am not saying all of your batsmen have to be big hitters but you do need 4-5 to be able to clear the boundaries easily,” Hayden told Star Sports. “Like Gilchrist, Pant thinks of the game differently.”