At a base price of INR 1 crore, Tom Banton was a huge steal for Kolkata at the Indian T20 League auction last year. Banton had done an exemplary job for Somerset in the T20 Blast and One Day Cup and was expected to be a back-up option for Sunil Narine this season at the top of the order.
Banton has played two matches so far this season - both against Bangalore - and opened the batting in one and came in at No. 4 in the other. He didn't quite click in both matches but was used in completely different roles in both games, separated by two other games where he wasn't played.
On the slower wickets in UAE, Banton's ability to strike cleanly was always in doubt. But that's basically an eyewash and hides the fact that Banton could just be the kind of player Kolkata need at the top to complement Shubman Gill.
There are many factors that favour Banton's case as an opener for the remainder of the season:
Kolkata's slow starts
Kolkata have been one of the slowest teams off the block in this season of the Indian T20 League. While Punjab and Bangalore start at 8.06 and 7.95 runs per over in the Powerplay, Kolkata do so at 7.14 runs per over, the second-worst in the season so far after Chennai. This is a significant drop from 2018 when they had the best scoring rate in the Powerplay (9.09). In 2020, their run-rate on Powerplay has gone down further after a terrible Powerplay against Bangalore where Mohammed Siraj's opening burst saw them reeling at 17/4 after six overs.
On a seaming wicket, Nitish Rana was exposed to the pace and movement when they had Banton in the ranks who had played on English wickets and could counter the swing. Banton also solves the problem of starting slow. A terrific striker of the ball, Banton has a strike-rate of 155.99 when opening the batting.
Banton's T20 record
Banton has had immense success opening the batting for Somerset. His style of play is ideally suited to the Powerplay overs and Brisbane showed this further in the Big Bash when he stormed the season with some majestic shot-making.
In his 40 T20 appearances before the game against Bangalore, Banton had not opened the innings in just four of those matches. As an opener, Banton has over a 1000 runs at a strike rate of 155.99 and an average of 29.63.
When not opening the batting, these numbers take a significant dip. The average is a meagre 11.33 and the strike-rate just 91.89. Playing someone like him out of position is detrimental for Kolkata, especially when they have a sound reason to use his striking prowess at the top of the order.
Feature image courtesy: Indian T20 League