The entire combination of the batting line-up will revolve around reinstating the red-hot Rishabh Pant in India’s T20 scheme of things. Indications are Pant will be in the playing XI against England in Ahmedabad on March 12.
The team management had found some balance with KL Rahul keeping wickets once Pant’s form started dwindling in late 2019. However, TOI understands that the team management is keen to now have a left-handed batsman in the middle order, and the in-form Pant fits the bill. Pant has also been named the designated wicketkeeper. Ishan Kishan is the backup.
The new selection committee under Chetan Sharma and the team management have to ensure the core of the T20 team for the World Cup is ready as soon as possible, unlike what happened in the lead-up to the 2019 ODI World Cup.
“Pant needs to be given a long run at No. 4. So does someone like Suryakumar Yadav. He should be told you’ll get all five games here. You don’t want to be in a position like 2019 when you couldn’t zero in on a No. 4 batsman even a series before the World Cup. You don’t want half-baked players going into a World Cup. You would want players to have enough games under their belt,” former national selector Devang Gandhi said.
Sharma’s selection committee has been garnering praise for including performers from the IPL. But their job was made easier by the fact that they had the luxury of naming a gigantic side. Rotating too much could lead nowhere.
If Pant comes in, the team management has a big call to make about the opening slot. Only one of KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan will start. “There has to be a tough call. At this moment, Rohit and Rahul should be first choice openers. Shikhar can be the backup. The management always wanted a left-hander in the middle. Pant at No. 4 boosts the line-up as he is good against both pace and spin. Pant, Surya and Hardik Pandya can form the dynamic middle-order you would want in T20s,” Gandhi said.
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The Indian team management has been very careful about managing the workload of frontline players. But it’s also necessary to have backups ready for unforeseen circumstances. The BCCI, NCA and the team management has worked as a unit and the bench strength now shows in the performances in Test cricket.
India now hope to replicate the same situation in T20Is. “The emergence of T Natarajan is a big boost as he could come in as Bumrah’s replacement with his yorkers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s return is good news but Deepak Chahar needs to develop his death bowling if he is to be considered as Bhuvneshwar’s like-for-like backup. The like-for-like backup system helps in formulating team strategy,” Gandhi said.
There’s enough resources, just like India had before the 2019 World Cup. Now it’s all about gaining clarity about the team composition.