Ishan Kishan
Ishan KishanPicture credit: X

Ishan Kishan's 82, a solid knock against Pakistan

Palkekele, 3rd September 2023

There was never a doubt about Ishan Kishan winning a place in the Indian team for the World Cup set to start on October 5 in Ahmedabad.

Over the several months, the team management, especially skipper Rohit Sharma and the five selectors, had thrown sufficient hints of his being in the scheme of things for the prestigious competition in India. On an eventful Sunday at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Central Sri Lanka, the left-hand batsman and wicketkeeper substantiated his calibre by taking on the might of the Pakistan attack with aplomb.

Regarded as a flashy batsman and bought by Mumbai Indians for the IPL 2022 for Rs. 15. 25 crore, Kishan -- though not often in the firing line of Pakistan's deadly left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi who makes the ball respond to his whims and fancies -- stroked his way to a splendidly constructed 82 off 81 balls with eleven boundary shots (9 x 4s and 2 x 6s). In a time of four minutes short of two hours, he reiterated the prevailing sentiment in the dressing room that he is ready to fill in the big shoes of the injured and recovering Rishabh Pant.

Marking his block at the fall of Shreyas Iyer's wicket --- to an ill-timed pull shot in the fifth ball of the tenth over --- Kishan offered a full face of the bat defence to the clever fast bowler Haris Rauf. Then he waited for four more balls – all from fast bowler Naseem Shah – to score two runs working the ball to the square leg region.

He did not face the damager in chief Shaheen Afridi (he had sent back Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli) as the left-hand bowler had completed his opening burst of five overs, after which the Pakistan skipper Babar Azam felt it was time to rest his lynchpin bowler and bring back Naseem Shah from the pavilion end.

Meanwhile, Rauf, bowling from around the wicket, pitched the ball short and wide to evoke a false shot from the 25-year older left-hander. But Kishan sensed a first opportunity to get into the act and directed the ball for a six between the third man fence and backward point. It was his second scoring shot; Rauf's tactics to feed the left-hander and cause his downfall did not work. After that, he edged Naseem Shah wide of the wicketkeeper to pick up his first boundary shot that fetched four runs.

Shubman Gill departed before the end of the first power play, and thereafter, Kishan did not have to face a fast bowler till the 25th when Azam recalled Shaheen Afridi into the attack after the fifth pair had added 55 runs with Hardik Pandya joining the left-hander in the middle. Pandya and Kishan did not risk playing the big shots of the left-hand pacer.

The two added 138 runs, dominating the leg spinner Shadabh Khan and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, who found their skills neutralised by a benign pitch. Khan went for 57 runs in his nine overs, and Nawaz was taken for 55 of eight. Together, they were scored off at 6.58 an over.

The 138-run stand between Kishan and Pandya just about reflected the ease with which they dealt with the two leading spinners of the rival team. When he attempted to hit Rauf over his head, he mishit and offered an easy catch to Azam, and thereby he lost a chance to score a century against a team he will face many times in the next couple of months. He was probably disgusted with the shot he played; another chance for a three–figure knock may not come soon.

The India skipper Sharma and Head Coach Rahul Dravid would have been largely satisfied with how Kishan shaped the and showed the maturity to dig his heels deep and work a productive stand with Pandya who also ran into form before falling to Shaheen Afridi.

Kishan made his ODI debut in these parts under the captaincy of Shikhar Dhawan, when Dravid was the coach and when the main Indian team was doing duty in England in the summer of 2021. He began with a 42-ball 59 at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. He got chances off and on, playing eight ODIs in 2022. Once Pant became unavailable following a car accident, Kishan became a priority wicketkeeper-batsman to be groomed by a competitor in Sanju Samson.

The fact that he was a left-hander influenced the people concerned with the team's composition to choose him first ahead of Samson. He has played eight matches this year, including the one against Pakistan on Saturday. What has also forced the team management and selectors to stick with him is the 210 he made of the Bangladesh attack in Chittagong in December last. He scored those runs of 24 x 4s and 10 x 6s, all of it coming off 131 balls.

Kishan, the feisty Patna-born who plays for Jharkhand in the national tournaments, has played 18 ODIs and scored 776 runs for an impressive average of around 47. Samson's average is 55.71 from 13 matches/ 12 innings.

The question now is whether the team will go for K.L. Rahul, should he be declared fit for the first World Cup match against Australia on October 8 in Chennai, or Kishan, bubbling with talent and in form.


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