The batting from No. 4 onwards has kept the team management on the edge of its seat for a good three years now. All the experience that India boast of is largely limited to Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan.
It may be flattering for Iyer and Pant that they have been identified to lend strength to this heavyweight top order, but they also realise the rope given to them may not last long enough.
In the T20 format, the heavyweights in the top three all adhere to the same template: ease into an innings and take off in the back half. This has been identified as the problem area now. Taking that much time to hit top gear is a recipe for potential disaster. Hence, the need for ‘explosive’ cricket.
Pant and Iyer have now been tasked to carry out this brand of cricket. Interestingly, in the IPL setup both Pant and Iyer have played more or less the same way as Rohit, Kohli, Rahul and Dhawan. But in the Indian setup, these young boys can barely afford to take as much time.
There’s Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan breathing down their necks. Pant and Iyer know they are critical to the team management’s plans. They have the dual role of building and consolidating the innings.
Here’s their chance to grow beyond just being IPL stars.
“I am under no sort of pressure to perform, I am playing freely, happily and enjoying my innings,” Iyer said after his 48-ball 67 on Friday night.
“I have been in this situation before, been there in IPL, it is not the first time. I knew I would get odd boundaries, and momentum changes if a partnership (gets going). So from that point of view, their bowlers bowled well. It was their day and kudos to them.”
(Iyer, right, and Pant are 29 and 26 T20Is old respectively – TOI Photo)
Iyer has rebuilt many innings with Pant in the IPL. But international cricket is a different prospect. Unlike IPL, you won’t get a couple of inexperienced bowlers to target. Naturally, India struggled to put on a competitive score against England.
“The team management does a lot of planning for these international games. They put us in various situations in practice and ask us to respond. It’s about executing the plans in the middle,” Iyer explained.
The plan is out there and there’s just four more games for Pant and Iyer to really cement their places for the T20 World Cup.