Rahul Dravid drops in as Pant, KL sweat it out
It was meant to be an optional training session for India before the third and final T20I against South Africa here on Sunday. Not for Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul though. Having struggled so far, they toiled away at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, hoping to iron out their flaws. And so a low-profile yet long training session in the presence of the entire coaching staff, with batting great and National Cricket Academy (NCA) head of cricket Rahul Dravid also in attendance, showed the seriousness of the matter at hand.
Dravid works in a different capacity here but his connect with some of the current India players is well-documented. Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Navdeep Saini, Rahul and Deepak Chahar all came through the ranks when Dravid was the under-19 and ‘A’ coach. All have tasted success of varying degrees but it was Pant whose career really took off when Dravid was mentor of Delhi’s IPL team. On Friday, Dravid was seen standing outside the nets as Pant kept sizing up deliveries.
The lack of rhythm and confidence was evident for almost the entirety of the 90 minutes spent by Pant and Rahul at the nets.
At times it seemed the focus was on getting the basics right more than practising their money shots. Pant did whack a few but Rahul seemed to be more concerned with how his bat was coming down. But Pandey, who has been on the fringes, looked the best among the three. Both Rahul and Pant had long conversations with new batting coach Vikram Rathour. Seven key batsmen of the T20I side—captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer—were present but only a few went to the nets. The focus was firmly on Pant and Rahul. And it’s imperative for India they click.
The team management has done away with spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav for this series, reasoning they can’t bat. Rahul and Pant’s inconsistency however has left the team on a sticky wicket. Rahul was not named in the second T20I at Mohali. India sauntered to a seven-wicket win but the only blip was yet another questionable stroke selection from Pant that resulted in an equally tame dismissal. He failed to cross 30 across four innings in the Tests and ODIs against West Indies, while he has scores of 0, 4, 65* and 4 in his last four T20I innings. Another tepid show here may not help his case.
South Africa, however, have bigger issues to address. Summoning a Test-specialist (Temba Bavuma) and handing debuts to two more players was their way of showing more intent. But it’s apparent they need more to counter India’s home dominance. Which is perhaps why Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen all batted close to an hour. Miller was made to face spin, and even Kagiso Rabada got 30-odd minutes to sharpen his batting. South Africa know they need runs from every player.