IPL 2021 was blessed with an eclectic bunch of No.3’s this season. Some went gung-ho from ball one, while others consolidated the innings after coming out to bat. For a few IPL 2021 No.3 batsmen, the season was a forgettable one as they failed to notch up the runs.
Batting at No.3 is regarded as one of the most important jobs in white-ball cricket. From acting as an auxiliary opener if the openers fall early to having to up the ante if the same pair have given a good start, No.3 batsmen are expected to do a whole lot with the bat.
The impact of the No.3 batsmen was evident in IPL 2021. Teams who had their No.3 batsman firing on all cylinders enjoyed their contributions, able to rely on a bank during any phase of the innings. Other franchises struggled with their one-down batsmen, constantly chopping and changing in their search for the ideal batter.
Who was the best No.3 batsman in IPL 2021?
In this article, we attempt to rank the No.3 batsmen of all IPL 2021 franchises. Apart from just runs, the impact of players on the team and their consistency have been taken into account. Some teams did not have a set No.3, and they have been judged as a unit in such instances.
#8 RCB – Rajat Patidar, Shahbaz Ahmed
One of IPL 2021’s best performing teams had a glaring hole at the top of their order. The Royal Challengers Bangalore had quality throughout their side, apart from the No.3 slot.
The position was something of a free-hit for whoever came out to bat for RCB, considering there was some hefty batting on both sides of the slot. Rajat Patidar and Shahbaz Ahmed were the two young guns trusted with the role, but both failed to impress in IPL 2021.
Rajat Patidar got four innings at No.3 for RCB, but the 27-year-old couldn’t grab the opportunity. He scored 71 runs with a strike rate of 114.51 at a time when his side needed someone who could accelerate at the top. On several occasions, Rajat Patidar ate up too many balls at the top, leaving fewer deliveries for the star duo of Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers.
#7 DC – Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane
With in-form openers who did the job more often than not in IPL 2021, DC’s no.3 batsmen didn’t get many opportunities to shine. However, they failed to impress when they did get the chance, which explains their low ranking.
Ajinkya Rahane got just two games at the start of the campaign and the seasoned cricketer was replaced by Steve Smith after scoring just eight runs across two games. Despite playing six games in IPL 2021, Steve Smith managed just 104 runs, at a lowly strike rate of 111.82.
Admittedly the Australian didn’t have much to do when DC were chasing totals, as the Dhawan-Shaw blitzkrieg did the bulk of the scoring in IPL 2021. But Steve Smith’s performances while batting first were atrocious as he looked out of place in the power-packed DC line-up.
#6 MI – Suryakumar Yadav
This ranking is more a case of Suryakumar Yadav not performing up to the lofty standards he has set over the past three seasons. An epitome of consistency, Suryakumar Yadav had a forgettable IPL 2021.
It wasn’t as if the Mumbai Indians star was out of form though. Suryakumar breezily made 10 or more runs in six of his seven innings in IPL 2021, but crossed the 35-run barrier just once this season. The MI No.3 scored 173 runs at a blistering strike rate of 144.16, but all too often went back to the pavilion after giving his wicket away cheaply.
Easily the best player of spin in the MI setup, Suryakumar Yadav was expected to do the bulk of the scoring on the sluggish Chepauk tracks. He managed just one fifty at the venue, and his failure to take responsibility and perform for his side under pressure means he is ranked sixth in our IPL 2021 No.3 batsmen rankings.
#5 KKR – Rahul Tripathi
KKR’s second-highest run-scorer was one of the few batsmen from the side who looked comfortable at the crease. Rahul Tripathi was often under pressure when he came out to bat, considering the KKR openers rarely gave their side a good start.
Rahul Tripathi hit the joint-most fours for KKR (21) and looked good during his time in the middle. One criticism of Tripathi would be that he failed to kick on after getting himself in, getting out between the 15-40 range thrice in IPL 2021.
But the 30-year-old did the best with what he had, with Rahul Tripathi often the lone warrior owing to the poor form of other KKR batsmen. He notched up 187 runs at a strike rate of 135.50 and went past 40 in both of KKR’s wins in IPL 2021, proving how valuable his contributions were this season.
#4 SRH – Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey
Sunrisers Hyderabad had a shocking IPL 2021, with the team managing just one win all season. That was more down to their hollow middle-order than anything else, with their No.3 batsmen contributing more often than not.
Manish Pandey came in for severe criticism for his slow strike rate in IPL 2021, but the 31-year-old still managed to score 193 runs in five games. At a time when wickets were falling around him left, right and centre, one can’t fault Pandey too much for taking it slow.
The fact SRH were able to take some games down to the wire was because of his presence in the middle, but it was his inability to finish games that proved to be Pandey’s Achilles heel in IPL 2021. Both of his fifties came in losing causes.
Kane Williamson took on the role of SRH’s No.3 for a couple of innings and performed admirably as well. The Kiwi maestro looked at home batting one-down and was dismissed just once in four innings in IPL 2021.
Although SRH’s No.3 batsmen failed to guide their team to wins, they weren’t solely responsible for the side’s failures, coming up with the goods more often than not in IPL 2021.
#3 PBKS – Chris Gayle
Many feel the Universe Boss is better off opening the batting, but the West Indian legend performed well at No.3 for the Punjab Kings in IPL 2021.
Although he didn’t cross fifty in IPL 2021, Chris Gayle did what was expected of him more often than not. 178 runs in eight games at a strike rate of 133.83 doesn’t stand out, but considering the situation Gayle found himself in, his contributions were useful at the top of the order.
His sedate 35-ball 43* against the Mumbai Indians, where Chris Gayle moved away from his usual attacking self, was particularly impressive, and helped Punjab Kings break their losing streak.
#2 RR – Sanju Samson
Slammed for his inconsistency in the past, Sanju Samson hit back at the critics with one of his strongest IPL seasons yet.
The responsibility of leading the side seemed to have done Sanju Samson a world of good, as he displayed a consistency in his game which was rarely seen in the past.
He started IPL 2021 in emphatic fashion, with his stunning 119 almost guiding RR to glory. Sanju Samson struggled for form over the next few games, but bounced back brilliantly to register a series of 40+ scores in the final few games.
Rajasthan Royals won two of their final three IPL 2021 games, with Sanju Samson registering scores of 48 and 42 in them. The 26-year-old curbed his natural instincts and played responsibly to contribute to the team’s cause. Sanju Samson ended the season with 277 runs at a strike rate of 145.78, the highest amongst No.3 batsman in IPL 2021
#1 CSK – Moeen Ali
No player has had a greater impact on his side’s fortunes than Moeen Ali. After years of struggling to break into IPL franchises, Moeen Ali found his home at No.3 for the Chennai Super Kings.
CSK struggled with the run-rate of their top order last season, and Moeen Ali single-handedly solved that problem in IPL 2021. His form was such that it prompted CSK’s perennial No.3 Suresh Raina to drop down a place to accommodate Ali, and the Englishman grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Tasked with going hard at the bowlers from ball one, Moeen Ali smacked 22 fours and 12 sixes in IPL 2021. He didn’t take long to get going and consistently built on the good stars provided by the CSK openers, with his strike rate of 157.25 the best among the no.3 batsmen this season.
He went past 10 runs in each game in IPL 2021, and his power-packed performances meant CSK were always ahead of the eight-ball when Moeen Ali was at the crease.
Moeen Ali’s form, combined with the transformational effect he had on CSK this season, makes him the best No.3 batsman of IPL 2021.