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T20 World Cup 2022

Never mind the T20I numbers, Rishabh Pant’s time to shine is now

Rishabh Pant has not played so far at this T20 World Cup
by Shashwat Kumar 4 minute read

Rishabh Pant has been running the drinks for India so far at the T20 World Cup. But his time to shine has arrived, writes Shashwat Kumar.

Pant, despite his game seemingly most suited to this format, has not been an overwhelming success in T20 Internationals: he averages a 24.02, which is perhaps a byproduct of his approach. It is his strike rate of 127, when paired with that average, that does not put him in a great light. KL Rahul, the player he is being touted to replace, averages a shade under 40 and strikes at more than 140 in T20I cricket. So, how does Pant exactly walk into India’s side ahead of Rahul?

Ahh…can we do this again?


Pant can play strokes all around the dial. He has decimated bowling attacks in the past in the IPL. And he can dominate spin. But then, Rahul can do all that too. In fact, since the start of 2021, he averages 42.25 and strikes at almost 133, and has scored two hundreds in Twenty20 cricket. If you want to talk about consistency, not many can hold a candle to Rahul despite his current dip in form. If there is any batter yet to fulfil his potential in international cricket, it is perhaps Rahul.

(Sigh) but let us look at the current context, at how India are struggling to maximise the powerplay at the T20 World Cup, how they are getting tied down because of the lack of a left-handed batter, and how Pant is an upgrade on the current version of Rahul.

Now we’re talking.

Whenever speaking about Pant, buzzwords like ‘talent’ and ‘potential’ invariably creep into conversations (now we know how), but his returns as an opener are ordinary. He has only scored 54 runs in three innings. Small sample, agreed, but they do not make a strong case if he wants to be Rohit Sharma’s T20I opening partner.

Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess. Just breathe and have faith that everything will work out for the best. Sounds similar to how Pant has always played his cricket, eh?

Rahul, on the other hand, has of late left India with little choice but to hope that everything will turn out right. In eight T20I innings in Australia, he has now scored 130 runs at a strike rate of 100 and a meagre average of 16.25. This seems to be playing on Rahul’s mind as well.

The Rahul that used to demolish virtually any attack seems to be a thing of the past. Of late – and we are talking quite a few seasons here – he has been too hesitant to take on the bowling early on, choosing to bat deep into the innings instead. Eyebrows would not have been raised had he been taking risks and failing in the process; these days, he has been failing despite his reluctance to take on the bowling.

In not capitalising on loose balls, Rahul has been making every left-arm pacer seem like Wasim Akram at his prime, and anyone bowling back of a length deliveries resemble Joel Garner in his pomp.

Pant will at least not give the bowler that satisfaction. If he fails in T20 cricket, it is often due to poor execution, not a defensive approach – and failures like that are understandable in the format. He may swipe wildly at a ball a mile outside off and get caught at short third. A quick glance at his mannerisms makes one realise that if given the same opportunity, he will try that again; and again; and again, until he gets it right, and even if he does not.

He rarely dies wondering, rarely obsesses over how he looks while launching sixes into the stands, seldom overcomplicates simple situations and hardly imagines how things will pan out if they do not go his way. It may not work because, well, the T20 World Cup is supposed to be tough.

Rahul’s circumspect approach, on the other hand, has no guarantee of working either, and has not worked of late. For what it is worth, Pant strikes at 159 as a T20I opener (albeit across a mere 34 balls) and at 144 in all T20s. Even if he fails, he will not chew up deliveries like Rahul is doing currently.

Despite his recent blip, Rahul boasts of a superior average and strike rate. But look closely, and a raw, blissful, almost infectious enthusiasm gives India a thousand reasons to play Pant. India need a bit of bravery, that extra hint of courage, that balancing act between being daring and daft. Pant can do it. He has been doing it all his life.

And even if one ignores all that, how can one forget the facts that this is Australia, a land he had conquered – at batting one-handed – against an attack with no obvious weak spot to help India script a historic series win, albeit in another format? Or the basic advantage a left-handed opener brings against new-ball bowlers?

What he needs now is a bit of trust, perhaps an arm over his shoulder that he can throw caution to the wind, rummage through his expansive repertoire of strokes and bat without a care in the world. He is not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. He is so beautiful in his imperfections, however, that he deserves a chance to own this T20 World Cup.

Pant is capable of that, and more importantly, he believes that he can. Perhaps time India do so too.

Bet365 will be Live Streaming all of the T20 World Cup matches direct to your iPhone, iPad or Android device, as well as desktop. This means that every T20 World Cup fixture will be available to bet365 customers wherever they are in the world.

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