Punt on Rishabh: How Pant's inclusion changes things for Team India at the World Cup
"I was disappointed, obviously. Every player playing for the country dreams of participating in the World Cup. It would have been an entirely different experience," sad Rishabh Pant a couple of months ago in an interview.
Disappointed, he said. Distraught, he meant. But, as the wheel of destiny turned, dejection has taken the shape of ecstasy for Rishabh Pant.
"I had a quick chat with him. He seems to have taken it pretty well. There is no doubt that he is disappointed, he would have loved to be in that squad but the thing he still has to remember is, potentially, he will get the opportunity to play in three to four World Cups," noted Delhi Capitals coach and two-time World Cup winning captain Ricky Ponting, after Pant was not included in India's 15-member World Cup squad.
Out of the the three-four World Cups for which Ponting has earmarked Pant, this is where the count begins.
It is true that the nation is saddened by an injury to Shikhar Dhawan but as they say, somebody's loss is somebody's gain and the country won't mind if Rishabh Pant is able to dish out a couple of memorable performances and make this World Cup his own.
India showed their loyalty to Shikhar Dhawan for long but couldn't help it ultimately. Unlike Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad who was sent packing on the first flight home as soon as he aggravated his knee injury, Team India stuck to Dhawan, even when it was certain that he would at least take three weeks to recover. But, when it was discovered that the recovery is not quick enough and he will remain in plaster for four to five weeks, which extends to to the mid of July, by which time the World Cup will be done and dusted, they had no choice but to look for other options.
Shankar ahead of Pant
Despite being included in the squad, it is unlikely that Pant will make it to the playing XI straight away. The team has to value the presence of Vijay Shankar, who bailed them out of trouble in the match against Pakistan after Bhuvneshwar Kumar walked off the field after bowling just 2.4 overs. Had Shankar not been there, India could well have landed in a fix.
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder has also succeeded to impress the team management in the few matches that he has played and in the nets. This is why he got a not ahead of Dinesh Kartik. His bowling skills had little say in that decision and it was his batting ability which did the job for him.
It has been reported that the team management feels that Shankar haa gifted bat swing, one that in fact resembles Yuvraj Singh and hence can do wonders. Given that India's top three are getting them off to a good start consistently, the team needs a more solid batsman at number four. And Shankar is likely to beat Rishab Pant in this regard.
*As per recent reports, Shankar has injured his toe during a net session and will get a nod if he recovers in time.
Pandya and Dhoni already assigned the enforcer's role
Team India already have Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni for the job description that Pant offers. The duo are currently being used as floaters and the gamble has paid off. There is sufficient firepower in that middle order and the team needs a solid batsman who can hold his own on days that conditions are tough (read cloudy) and when the ball is doing a bit, someone who can play the role of the sheet anchor and can keep the team together. Pant, as we all know, has limited skill on that front.
There is little doubt that Pant is an utterly skillful cricketer and can decimate the opposition bowling line-up on his day. That said, at the moment his technique is more suited to T20 cricket as he has a particular batting arc that goes towards mid wicket. Given the big square boundaries at certain venues in England, he will have some difficulty in clearing the boundary repeatedly. We recently saw in Australia that Pant was finding it tough to muscle the ball over the ropes in the absence of timing, which is seldom the case on small Indian grounds in the IPL.
In his defence, on the day that Pant clicks, he will need little assistance from any other player and will do the job on his own. On the other hand, you know what you will get from from Vijay Shankar. He might not blast an 80 from 35 deliveries or run through sides with his bowling but somewhat guarantees you a good 40 or 50 in the middle at around run-ball and can fill in four-five overs economically and on a good day might also take one or two wickets.
Hence, the Indian team knows what both players have to offer and it is not about the individual that they have to pick, but the role which they want the entrusted player to play.