Batting at number three is not an easy job at all in T20 cricket. When a wicket falls early, they are expected to repair the early damage, and when the same wicket falls after a good opening stand, the number three batsman is expected to walk out and maintain the tempo of the innings as well. So, the job demands high flexibility and adaptation.

Since 2016, as many as 63 batsmen have batted at number three in the Indian T20 League. However, only 23 of them have gone on to bat in five or more innings at this position. Out of them, only 18 have gone on to accumulate 200 or more runs.

So, we have used the sample of these 18 players to find out how they stack up against each other in this role and that has helped us with some interesting observations.

AB de Villiers is a class apart

South African Superman AB de Villiers is not only the second-highest run-getter during this period but has the highest RpI (runs per innings) of 41.55 among these batsmen as well. His strike-rate of 160.73 while accumulating these runs has been unbelievable as well.

de Villiers has 1371 runs to his name in 33 innings during this period and to score so many runs at such an unbelievable strike-rate is a tremendous achievement.

Rishabh Pant is India's answer to de Villiers

The Indian wicketkeeper-batsman is the only batsman who comes the closest to de Villiers RpI during this period. However, his strike-rate of 184.62 has been far better than that of the South African batsman and the best during this period as well. However, Pant has played only six innings and accumulated only 240 runs as compared to de Villiers' corresponding metrics of 33 innings and 1371 runs. But the Delhi southpaw has four scores of 30 or more in these six outings, which includes a best of 97 as well.

Such consistency and brutality leave us to ponder how things could have been if Delhi would have persisted with Pant at number three for a longer period.

Suresh Raina is the highest run-scorer but not the most effective

The left-handed batsman, who plies his trade for Chennai in the Indian T20 League, has the highest number of runs (1645) at number three during this period but his RpI of 27.42 and a strike-rate of 131.71 suggests that he isn't the most effective five of all. In fact, as many as nine out of these 18 batsmen have a higher strike-rate than Raina. In terms of RpI, 13 of them have better numbers as compared to Raina. If both metrics are considered, seven batsmen in total fare better than the southpaw.

Sanju Samson better than the Fab Four?

Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root are called as the fab four of modern-day cricket. However, only the first three of the aforementioned players have made a name for themselves in T20 cricket. All three of them appear at the top half of this plot too but there is one young player who is rubbing shoulders with these three names in the same zone - Sanju Samson.

The 25-year-old has a marginally lower RpI of 35.91 than Smith's 38.21 but has a far better strike-rate of 136.68 as compared to Smith's 130.26. Not only that, but Samson also fares better than Kohli and Williamson in terms of both RpI and strike-rate. He may be yet to reach the level of these three players across all formats but for now, he has the full bragging rights for this little achievement.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Arun Sankar

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