Ishan Kishan is only 23 but there is already a worrying gulf in numbers developing around the young, talented left-hander’s career. Either side of Kishan’s breakthrough IPL 2020 with Mumbai Indians (MI), the Jharkhand young gun boasts of an insipid record to his name in the IPL.
Kishan’s record sees an alarming dip outside of the league’s 2020 edition: only 936 runs over 43 innings at an average of 21.76 and strike-rate of 131.64.
His boundary-per-innings falls to just 3 outside that remarkable season where he consistently blasted the opposition attacks. The IPL 2020 was also the only season in his IPL career since 2016 that Ishan Kishan had a dot-ball percentage below 35.
The numbers paint a worrying picture as Kishan looks a player of more bad days and seasons than the good ones. This may seem an opportunistic thing to say when he has just finished one of his worst IPL campaigns but the record – over such a large sample size – doesn’t lie.
Before he resurrected himself with a couple of encouraging half-centuries at the fag end of the IPL 2021 in UAE, Kishan had only 107 runs to show for his effort for the season at a horror strike-rate of 86.99.
Players can go out of form, struggle on certain pitches, against particular oppositions but Ishan Kishan’s IPL career has now had too many elongated set of failures to be avoided, even budgeting for the fact that he is still developing.
The base problem with Ishan Kishan is a huge gap in his range against pace and spin. The left-hander is a rare Indian commodity, in that he is capable of dominating the quicks without compromising on his consistency but really struggles to get the ball off the square versus spin.
Since IPL 2019, over three seasons, Kishan has impressively averaged 40.50 with an eye-catching strike-rate of 150.93 versus pace. But the record against spin pales in comparison, as he goes at only 119.23 while averaging 33.81.
This was a pattern in play during the IPL 2020 as well. Even during his most fruitful set of IPL games, Kishan found the ball coming onto his bat a little too much to his liking and looked off the boil the moment he had to manoeuvre it through the in-field versus the slow men. He averaged 50 with a strike-rate of 153.1 to pacers but only 136.7 to spin, against which he interestingly averaged 77.
This alludes to an approach where Kishan recognised his shortcoming to spin and with no immediate resolution for the same, focused on cutting down risks against spinners so as to maximise his strength versus pace.
But even this pragmatic approach came to no rescue in IPL 2021 where the moment Kishan began to lose his wicket against the pacers, too, there was no hiding place for him. His record against pace was still decent if one looks at the dip in average leniently – Avg: 28.6, SR: 164.3. But with no real momentum gained in his innings while facing pace, spinners were able to tighten up the screws on him to that much greater extent – Avg: 24.5, SR: 105.3 – and forced him to take more risks, a combination which resulted in a succession of cheap dismissals.
When young players fail, very rarely we would see them coming out of that rough phase easily without going through an extended patch of failures since their games aren’t quite robust yet and they are having to face upto opposition attacks that feed onto those weaknesses like cruel vultures.
In Ishan Kishan’s case, it seemed to have affected the youngster’s headspace also, as he was seen wearing a sombre look about him while speaking to his India skipper Virat Kohli at the conclusion of an MI-RCB game in Dubai recently.
Kohli heartwarmingly made it a point to talk to his young man and tried to cheer him up, recognising his importance to a T20 World Cup campaign for which he has been picked ahead of more experienced players like Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer.
Being a good skipper, Kohli followed that arm around the youngster’s shoulders with an opportunity to get some more runs and confidence under his belt through Monday’s warm-up game against England.
With Rohit Sharma rested, it was a great chance for Kishan to bat at a position where he suits the best at this stage of his development – opening the innings, facing the quicks with field restrictions in place. At the top, Kishan can maximise his pace strength and multifold the value he brings to the table.
While the selectors understandably picked him for his dual role capabilities – being a left-hander who can go up and down the order depending on the team’s requirement – numbers and performances, so far at least, vindicates belief that Ishan Kishan is better served focusing only on opening the innings.
It is not that teams can’t target Kishan with spin inside the powerplay, they will, but at least in sending him up in the future, India wouldn’t feel they didn’t offer him his best chance to succeed. Who knows, with more time spent up the order against fast men and confidence built right at the start of his innings, we might also see a more assured and prolific Ishan Kishan against spin going forward.
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