Pant or Iyer, who's the No. 4? Kohli admits to 'miscommunication in the middle'
Virat Kohli has revealed that Rishabh Pant was not supposed to bat at No. 4 - it was to be Shreyas Iyer - in the third T20I against South Africa in Bengaluru.
The India captain admitted to a "miscommunication" between Pant and Iyer, explaining that the latter was slated to walk in if India were two down within the tenth over. As it turned out, India were 63 for 2 in the eighth over. However, Pant walked in ahead of Iyer, and Kohli put it down to a communication breakdown in the dugout.
"I think there was a miscommunication there," Kohli said. "That's what I understood afterwards. The batting coach [Vikram Rathour] had a word with both of them and there was a misunderstanding of who has to go at what stage of the game. So, it was a bit funny afterwards because they both wanted to walk in. It would have been very funny if both had reached the pitch... three batsmen in the field. Yeah, I think it was a miscommunication in the middle.
"We had it planned according to phases. So, after ten overs, we decided Rishabh would walk in. Before that Shreyas had to walk in. So, I think both of them got confused and didn't realise who had to walk in at what stage of the game."
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There has been some debate over Pant's batting position and shot selection in recent times. Coach Ravi Shastri was critical of Pant's shot selection in the Caribbean, and India's new batting coach Vikram Rathour commented on the matter as well. It all came into the spotlight once again when Pant heaved a half-tracker straight into the lap of short fine-leg against South Africa in Mohali.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar suggested that slotting Pant in at No. 5 would ease the pressure on him, helping him play his attacking, natural game.
"Giving him a bit of breathing space by slotting him at No. 5 could also help, for at that number he will invariably come in to bat where his aggressive batting is needed from the start rather than when he has to build his and the team's innings," Gavaskar wrote in Sunday Mid-Day.
VVS Laxman, the former India batsman, has also weighed in on the issue, largely echoing Gavaskar's thoughts.* "The nature of Rishabh Pant's batting is that he plays aggressive shots, and unfortunately at the international level he is not able to succeed at the No. 4 position," Laxman told host broadcaster Star Sports. "Pant should bat at No. 5 or 6, where you have the license to go out and express yourself. At the moment, he doesn't know the right method of scoring runs at No. 4."
After coming in at No. 4 on Sunday, Pant tiptoed to 12 off 17 balls before fiercely slog-sweeping seamer Dwaine Pretorius over the fine-leg boundary. He added just one more to his tally before holing out to long-off against left-arm fingerspinner Bjorn Fortuin for 19 off 20 balls. Two balls later, Iyer was stumped off a leg-side wide for 5 off 8 balls. From 63 for 1 India lost five wickets for 35 runs and eventually the game.
*September 23, 07.15 GMT: This story was updated with VVS Laxman's quotes