India vs SA 2nd T20: Shreyas Iyer defends Rishabh Pant’s decision to promote Axar Patel ahead of Dinesh Karthik | Cricket News

It may have looked odd to send Axar Patel ahead of India’s ‘designated finisher’ Dinesh Karthik in the second T20 against South Africa but top-order batter Shreyas Iyer defended the strategy, saying the need of the hour was to ‘rotate strike’. India were struggling to get going and were 112/6 when Axar Patel got out in the 17th over as it was mainly due to the veteran Karthik’s pyrotechnics while batting at No 7 that they could get post a respectable 148/6.

“It’s something we had strategised earlier as well. We had seven overs left when Axar went in, and he’s someone who can take the singles and keep rotating the strike,” Shreyas said at the post-match media interaction on Sunday (June 12).

“Also, at that point in time, we didn’t require someone to go in and start hitting from ball one. DK can obviously do that, but he has been a really good asset for us after 15 overs, where he can go in and start hitting straightaway.”

Promoted at No 6, Axar scored 10 off 11 balls before being cleaned up by Anrich Nortje, while Karthik slammed an unbeaten 30 from 21 balls. Former India opener Sunil Gavaskar also questioned the decision, saying, “Definitely (Karthik should have come in ahead of Axar), there’s no question about it. Sometimes, there are labels that you’re a finisher so you tend to think that he is going to come only after the 15th over or thereabout, ‘you can’t come in the 12th or 13th over’. And we have seen this happen in the IPL as well, a lot of teams have kept some of their big-hitters only for the last 4-5 overs when actually they can be sent in earlier as they have the ability to work the ball around.”

Shreyas argued that even Karthik had struggled to get his timing right like many others on the day on a two-paced wicket. “Even he was finding it a little bit difficult at the start. The wicket played a huge role in this game. And as for that strategy, we can and we will be going with it in the next matches as well,” Shreyas said.

As a matter of fact, Karthik took 15 balls to score eight runs but then he broke free in the next six, smashing two sixes and two fours. On hindsight, it may have felt that India could have notched 160-plus had the in-form Karthik got more time in the middle.

Shreyas however agreed that they fell short by about 12 runs in the end. “If I look back I think 160 would have been a really good score on this wicket to put them under a little bit of pressure. But we were like 12 runs short,” he added.

For India, the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper was the top-scorer on the day as he scored a sedate 35-ball 40 and also spent some anxious moments at the two-paced wicket. “It was really tough to be honest, I played 35 balls but I was not able to identify how the wicket was playing. I was trying to time the ball as well, I actually tried everything out there. But it was really difficult especially for the new batters to come in and get going,” the 27-year-old said.

“On top of that the ball was staying low from one end, and from the other there was a variable bounce as well and the ball was seaming. I could not really talk much about it since every wicket can be challenging for us. But we don’t blame it for the loss,” he added.

At a time when most of the batters struggled at Barabati, comeback man Heinrich Klaasen stood out and smashed 81 off 46 balls as the Proteas chased down the target with 10 balls to spare. “Klaasen targeted our spinners really well. He played shots off good lengths. The ball wasn’t turning and he was standing and delivering. The strokes he hit mostly landed over the ropes. I don’t think our bowlers did much wrong,” he said.

Trailing 0-2, the Rishabh Pant-led India now have the onerous task to win three matches in a row to seal the five-match series. “It’s a great challenge, a lot of pressure on us. But I can’t see anything which is going to stop us,” he signed off.

(with PTI inputs)

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