With the crammed schedule dictating that players often get rest, either Rohit or Rahul is always unavailable. And in the case of the ongoing series against South Africa, since both Rohit and Rahul are missing, Ishan has to play the senior opener’s role.
Now, here’s the catch. The Indian team is thinking of veering away from its conservative approach to T20 batting. The T20 World Cup is barely five months away. And Ishan Kishan has become the face of the ultra-aggressive brand of batting that India aspires to play in the World Cup.
Ishan has to set the tempo up front for the others to provide a powerful finish. He has to make sure he scores enough runs so that he doesn’t fall off the radar too.
On Thursday night, against a full-strength South African attack, his frailties against the new ball came to the fore.
His start wasn’t the prettiest to watch but there was no shortage of intent to go after the bowlers. For all his persisting technical deficiencies against pace and movement, Ishan can’t be accused of playing to conserve his wicket, which India’s famed top three of Rohit, Rahul and Virat Kohli have often been accused of.
Ishan has often fallen trying to go for the big hit despite already ensuring a big over. His 76 off 48 balls at Kotla was demonstration of the brand of cricket India want to play: all-out attack like many other successful international sides do.
Ishan is settling into a role, but he knows he is not the first choice.
“I think they (Rohit and Rahul) are world-class players and I won’t ask for my spot when they are there in the team. They have scored so many runs for our country, I cannot ask them to drop themselves and make me play in the first place,” Ishan said at the post-match press conference on Thursday night.
“My job here is to give my best in the practice session. Whenever I get my opportunity, I have to prove myself or do well for the team. I focus more on what I have to do. It’s up to the selectors and the coaches whatever they think,” he added.
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While head coach Rahul Dravid and the selectors Chetan Sharma would be pleased that their backup opener is managing to play just the way they want their openers to, they will also be hoping both Rahul and Rohit get enough games in the lead up to the T20 World Cup to be in the same zone as Ishan.
Ishan is playing a high-risk game. He is getting used to it. He is about to turn 24 and is only 11 T20Is old. If he gets on a roll here, India may just have to find a way to accommodate Ishan in the first XI when all options are available.
It could be either boom-and-bust or high-risk-high-reward for Ishan.