Dissecting the Daredevils batting order
Why is Sanju Samson opening?
Sanju Samson batted at No. 3 in Pune and got a century. Since then, he's opened and looked brilliant. Form is gold in T20, and therefore, there is merit in promoting Samson to the top. Daredevils, in the past, have been guilty of not acknowledging the importance of form. They have been happy to select the team and decide the batting order. That's why the move to open with Samson must be lauded.
This year, the standout feature of Samson's batting has been his timing. He's one of the few batsmen with almost no trigger movement; that's why he's rarely off-balance. But, it must also be noticed that while Samson starts with a bang, he slows down radically soon after. In Pune, the first 19 balls produced 35 runs, and the following 19 fetched him only 13. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, he scored 27 runs off his first 12 balls, but slowed down after the introduction of spin, managing only 12 off the next 13 balls.
Why isn't Rishabh Pant batting higher?
Even before Samson hit his straps, Rishabh Pant had made his presence felt. He is one of the brightest talents in Indian cricket, having shown both the range of strokes and the ability to stay unfazed under pressure. While Samson merited a promotion, Pant is demanding to get a bigger share of the 120 balls. He has batted at Nos. 5, 4, 5 and 5. It's frustrating to observe that his ability to hit big shots is working against him.
Pant versus Narine
As Sunil Narine bowled his first ball to Pant, the field placement had Gambhir written all over it. He had a slip and a silly point in place. Gambhir is one of the few captains in the IPL who genuinely believes that taking wickets is the best way to stop runs, and that everyone is equally vulnerable at the start of an innings. While this tactic was worth applauding, it was equally heartening to see Pant's response to the first two deliveries from Narine. Most young batsmen, especially when playing Narine for the first time, plant their front foot down the pitch. But Pant nonchalantly went on the back foot and played him through the leg side, as if he had grown up playing cricket with Narine and had read his variation from the hand.
Why is Mathews batting ahead of Morris?
Daredevils' batting order has raised a few eyebrows. It's quite apparent that they are desperately trying to bring Karun Nair into form. While there's some rationale in keeping faith in Nair, it was surprising to see Angelo Mathews walking ahead of Chris Morris. If it wasn't for Pant's 38 off 16 balls, Daredevils wouldn't have managed even 150.
Were Morris and Cummins held back too late?
At one stage Knight Riders were 21 for 3, and that's when you expect the bowling unit to exert more pressure and look for wickets. While Zaheer Khan did hunt for a wicket for a while, he went on the defensive in the middle overs. He seemed concerned about getting through Mohammaed Shami's overs and, with both Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan set, Amit Mishra's overs as well. The fielders he had in the circle were on the edge and weren't trying to stop singles, which allowed the partnership to grow.
The 13th and 14th overs were bowled by Mathews and Zaheer, though Morris and Cummins had three and two left respectively. One could understand Zaheer wanting to save Morris for overs 15, 17 and 19, and Cummins for the 16th and 18th. But Pandey and Yusuf were aware of that too. They scored 26 in those two overs, bridging the gap between runs required and balls remaining.
Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash