All eyes were in Rishabh Pant as India aimed to script a comeback in Cuttack in the T20I series against South Africa. Pant's captaincy was criticised by many veteran India cricketers after the Men in Blue failed to defend 211 in New Delhi earlier last week and subsequently lost by seven wickets against South Africa in the series opener. And former India cricketer Ashish Nehra feels that Pant once again erred in his bowling strategy in the second T20I where India lost by four wickets to trail 0-2 in the five-match series against the Proteas.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar's stellar spell of 3 for 10 with the new ball reduced South Africa to 29 for three at the end of the powerplay. Pant immediately brought in Yuzvendra Chahal against two right-handers, Henrich Klaasen and Temba Bavuma.
Speaking to Cricbuzz after the loss, Nehra opined that with two right-handers in the middle, Pant should have brought in left-arm spinner Axar Patel into the mix. However, the skipper went with Chahal, Hardik Pandya and Harshal Patel against two batters. And by the time Axar was brought in, the two looked well set.
"Changes to the playing XI depend on the conditions in Vizag." Rishabh Pant also needs to take a look. He held back Axar Patel for so long. There were two right-handed batters at that time. I don't see any reason why Axar Patel was not given an over at that time," said Nehra.
Former India wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, who was part of the same discussion, added, "Reading the game becomes very important in such situations, especially in this format." Klassen was struggling initially, and he had to change gears. Although he played spin really well today, there was a chance to bring in Axar Patel against him."
Nehra pointed out another error at the start of India's bowling innings. He opined that Pant should have continued with Avesh Khan in the powerplay rather than giving over to Hardik.
"Avesh Khan bowled a good first over, but his spell was halted and Pandya was brought in for the fourth over. Some players think that the batters get familiar with the bowler, and because of that, they change the bowler.
"Any bowler would wish, upon seeing that the new ball is moving around, to bowl one more over in those conditions," he said.
The third T20I will be played on June 14 in Vishakhapatnam.