How can India fit Rishabh Pant into their ODI and T20I Setup?

Rishabh Pant’s role in the recently concluded T20 World Cup in Australia was somewhat suspenseful. Whether he was selected as a batting option or a backup wicketkeeper-batsman, as Dinesh Kartik played most of the games in the entire tournament, it is still anyone’s guess.

The Pant vs Karthik shuffle

In the 2019 limited-overs world cup in England, Pant wasn’t selected because Dinesh Kartik was included as a first-choice wicketkeeper. Pant had to be included after Shikhar Dhawan got injured. In the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, he wasn’t a backup option but wasn’t even a first-choice wicketkeeper.

The 25-year-old is the first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman in Tests but hasn’t been able to establish himself when it comes to the 50-over format as well as the T20I format. Although Pant’s strike rate in T20Is, in the last two years or so, has almost touched 130, there are players whose strike rates are lower than his but are finishers in their sense. The left-hander looked promising in the finishers’ role when India beat England in the third ODI in the ODI series in July 2022, but he hasn’t been able to do it consistently.

In the Asia Cup, he threw away his wicket against Pakistan on the group stage by playing a reverse sweep to a delivery meant to be swept or guided for a single at long-on. In the IPL, the Delhi Capitals skipper hasn’t been able to establish himself as a pure finisher at the end like Dinesh Kartik does for Royal challengers Bangalore or former legend MS Dhoni did for team India as well as Chennai Super Kings. When a finisher’s role is defined, the best example is MS Dhoni.

The 41-year-old was a finisher in the limited and the shorter formats. However, these are still early days to compare Pant with MS Dhoni, the 25-year-old needs to be selective while taking risks. Pant scored 340 runs in 13 IPL games during the 2022 IPL season with a strike rate of 151.7, while Dinesh Kartik scored 330 runs with a strike rate of 183.3. The difference is visible between both players. While batting at No 6 or 7, Pant is below Sanju Samson when we review the performance of the batters in the T20 format.

The Curious Case of Pant’s Role in White-ball Cricket

Pant played only two games in the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, and that too, after some below-par performances of Dinesh Kartik with the bat. Pant played in the match against Zimbabwe, where he had the chance to accelerate with Indian other batters losing their way in between before Suryakumar Yadav showcased his destructive hitting abilities. Pant had the opportunity to make an impression. Still, the wicketkeeper-batsman hadn’t played in the group stages, so lack of match practice and adjusting to conditions could have been the reason for his dismissal.

Against England in the semi-final, Pant should have been sent just after Suryakumar got out or should have been sent in place of Suryakumar Yadav to get a sense of the wicket and playing conditions. What Rishabh Pant can do in T20 cricket when he is sent up the order is relatively straightforward, and maybe India fell short of another 25 runs, which might have given the Indian bowlers a chance to something to bowl at ultimately ending India’s campaign in the T20 World Cup. The 2024 T20 World Cup is in USA and West Indies, and the Indian selectors and the coaching staff need to find a solution for using Rishabh Pant.

Is he suitable as a one-down batter to accelerate the scoring, or is he more ideal as a No 5, 6, or maybe a No 7 batsman? But for that, the wicketkeeper-batter needs to be given enough game time before any big game. If he is to be played at No 5, he should be given a chance against a lesser-known opponent to adjust to the conditions and the wickets, as wickets in West Indies offers more bounce and pace, while in the USA, wickets could aid the batters more.

Pant could be captain material in the future in the ODIs and T20Is. Still, he needs to understand that Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson are both wicketkeeper-batsmen, and both are performing well currently. Going ahead, if Pant is the option, he needs to be tried in two positions. The top order consists of Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer, who both are proper batsmen, while the middle order consists of Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, and Deepak Hooda.

Pant won’t find it easy to break into the side if his form is not consistent. Even with his improved wicketkeeping prowess, both wicketkeeper batsmen Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson could challenge him for the post in the T20 as well as the 50 over format.

It’s still unclear whether Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will be a part of the next T20 World Cup, but the Indian selectors need to create a set-up for the limited and the T20I format where every player knows his role. The selection committee and the coaching staff need to decide whether they need specialised players who can perform their roles on a two-way front.

The Wrap

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It’s up to team management and the selectors to decide how Pant can be developed as a match winner in the shorter and longer format. Indian team would be playing a lot of games in the next eight to ten months. With the 50-over world cup to be played next year in India, the team management needs to think about adding more depth to the squad.

For that, Rishabh Pant needs to play more ODIs and should be played at No 5 or No 6 and sometimes in the middle to get a sense and awareness of how to handle situations while batting in these positions against big sides. It will be a test for him as the wicketkeeper-batsman will have to pull up his socks, as well as for the team management, who needs to identify his role quickly.

Read Now: Rishabh Pant’s Year-wise Performance in Test Cricket

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