Match Analysis

Ishan Kishan adds smarts to an already explosive game

The Indian selectors may have another wicketkeeping option if Kishan continues this upward curve

Deivarayan Muthu
Ishan Kishan muscles the ball into the leg side  •  BCCI

Ishan Kishan muscles the ball into the leg side  •  BCCI

Kagiso Rabada goes around the wicket. He's looking to york Ishan Kishan who backs away even before the ball is delivered. Rabada, though, overpitches and it comes out as a low full-toss. However, it still cramps Kishan, who makes it look easy by leaning back and jabbing it through the offside for four. He knows both mid-off and extra-cover are up in the circle, and he expertly exploits that gap.
Kishan has always been a swashbuckler. When he was called up for the Mumbai trials at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai ahead of the IPL 2018 auction, the management was impressed with his hitting. He kept peppering the leg-side boundaries with powerful sixes. Two years later, he not only sits atop the sixes charts, but also has also proved that there's more to him than just brute power.
Go watch how he manipulated another attempted yorker off Anrich Nortje for a boundary. Like Rabada, Nortje darts a full-toss, and Kishan gets his toes out of the way, shovelling it away over the leg side for four. He knows the sweeper in the deep is squarer than straighter, so he picks it away to the right of that outfielder for four.
The Delhi Capitals had held back their premier fast bowlers Rabada and Nortje for Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers. While Ashwin had dismissed Pollard for a duck, and Marcus Stoinis had got Krunal for 13, Kishan and Hardik outwitted the Capitals at the death. Kishan alone took 36 off 14 balls from Rabada and Nortje. This, after he was on 10 off 14 balls at one point.
Kishan finished the innings with a Rishabh Pant-esque six - his head fell away, but the ball fell beyond the cover fence. Both Kishan and Pant were part of India's Under-19 side that finished runners-up in 2016 in Bangladesh. Kishan, in fact, was the captain of that side, but it was Pant who became the first IPL and India star from that batch.
However, Pant has struggled this IPL, trying to take more responsibility at the cost of losing his explosiveness. In stark contrast, Kishan seems to have expanded his repertoire without really losing his explosiveness. From not being in Mumbai's first-choice XI at the start of the season, he is their highest scorer and fourth-highest overall, with 483 runs in 12 innings at an average of 53.66 and strike rate of 144.17.
When Mumbai squared off against Delhi last week in Dubai in a league fixture, Kishan cracked 72 off 42 balls as an opener, standing in for the injured Rohit Sharma At the top, he has also managed scores of 68 not out, 37 and 25. Once his captain was fit again, he dropped down to the middle order. In the first qualifier when Mumbai lost Sharma for a duck after being asked to bat, Kishan stepped up with the bat, propelling Mumbai to 200 for 5. It gave their bowlers insurance when the ball slid onto the bat nicely in dewy conditions in the second half.
"In T20 we always talk about momentum, and there's a reason for it. We never really want the momentum to shift towards the opposition," Sharma told host broadcaster Star Sports at the post-match presentation. "That's when the opposition can come back into the game and you know Ishan is in such good form.
"We just wanted him to be positive as much as he can. He's got solid hitting ability as we can see - he's [on] top of the table in six-hitting. It was a very clear message to him [to hit out] as Krunal as well at that point: 'if you can put the pressure on the bowlers, please don't be afraid of doing so'. Just go with your instinct."
Kishan wasn't afraid at all and did what was asked of him in the first qualifier. Throughout the season, he's done what has been asked of him in multiple roles, if not exceed expectations. Pant has now been dropped from India's white-ball squads, and Sanju Samson is the second T20I keeper-batsman behind KL Rahul, but if Kishan keeps up the excellent work, he can shake up that pecking order.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo