World Cup 2019: Rishabh Pant conundrum as Afghans loom

If there ever was an apt time to try swashbuckling southpaw in this World Cup, it would be against struggling Afghanistan today

Latest News
World Cup 2019: Rishabh Pant conundrum as Afghans loom
Rishabh Pant


Rishabh Pant is finally in the dressing room in England as India’s World Cup squad member, a place where he probably should have been a fortnight ago. 

Having been termed as Team India’s X-factor by many stalwarts, including former skipper Sourav Ganguly and Australian great Ricky Ponting, the 21-year-old Pant was roped in as replacement of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan on Wednesday.

Now that he is in the squad, Pant has been subject of an even bigger debate about whether he should be drafted into the playing XI straightaway against Afghanistan on Saturday, and, if yes, where should he be playing as a specialist batsman.

Having played his entire career as wicket-keeper batsman, the Delhi boy has to accept that he is no match to the veteran MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Pant, who has played five ODIs, knows that he has to compete with other players in the open field. And, he has to dislodge one of the two all-rounders, Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav, to sneak into the starting line-up.

And if there was ever an apt time to experiment and try the youngster out just to see how he goes, it’s none better than against the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Afghanistan.

However, having won all four games so far in the World Cup, there is little chance that skipper Virat Kohli – who is known to spring surprises with his selection – will try and make major changes in the XI. 

Pant’s only chance to make his World Cup debut is if Shankar, who was struck on the toe by a Jasprit Bumrah delivery in the nets on Wednesday, fails to regain his fitness in time. 

According to a source in the team, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder has almost fully recovered from his injury.

“Rishabh may have to wait for his chance. Vijay is showing no discomfort and likely to be playing tomorrow (against Afghanistan),” the source said on the eve of the game.

However, Pant’s long batting session at the nets on Friday did hint at a scenario where the team management wants to keep him in the mix.

There are talks of pushing KL Rahul back to No. 4, while trying Pant at the top of order. But there aren’t many takers for this especially after Rahul’s 57 against Pakistan and his opening partnership of 136 with Rohit Sharma.

“If Rishabh comes in then he is likely to bat at anywhere between No. 4 to No. 6. His flamboyance and hard-hitting abilities are more suited in the middle-order than at the top,” the source said.

Pant, though, offers a left-right advantage to the team at the top of the order. Also, his ability to attack the opposition single-handedly is his biggest asset, as was seen in this year’s Indian Premier League where he played a few blinders while chasing a big total under pressure.

Not to forget his two centuries against England and Australia in his nascent Test career thus far.

It is now left to skipper Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri to take a final call on whether to throw Pant straight into the playing XI against a weaker team, or wait for tougher challenges ahead to dish out their X-factor.

Find your daily dose of news & explainers in your WhatsApp. Stay updated, Stay informed-  Follow DNA on WhatsApp.

Live tv