Wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant is set to join the squad in England as a cover for the injured Shikhar Dhawan. Pant, who is just 21 years old, has already scored two overseas centuries for India in test matches. He also had a good IPL season with 488 runs in 16 matches at a strike rate of 166. In fact, the dashing Delhite’s exclusion in the original World Cup squad was criticized by many experts as well as fans. Now with concerns over Dhawan’s further involvement in the World Cup, Pant is set to join the team.
While Pant will be arriving a day before India’s crucial clash against the Black Caps, it remains to be seen whether Pant will replace Dhawan in the squad.
A BCCI official currently in England told PTI, “Rishabh Pant is being flown in from India as a cover at the request of the team management.”
India is in a funny situation where the loss of an opener is weakening the middle order.
Dhawan had sustained a finger injury during his match-winning knock against Australia in the previous game. The dashing opener has six hundreds in ICC tournaments and can be a huge loss if he is ruled out of the tournament. He was hugely influential in India’s success in the ICC champions trophy 2013 which was also in England. He also scored two centuries in the previous World Cup campaign where India were semi-finalists. His ODI record in England also shows why he can be such an important player. He has scored over 1000 runs in One Day International matches played in England at an average of almost 65 with four centuries to his name.
The No.4 concern-
The injury has once again led to the rise of the No. 4 problem, which was the major concern while selecting the World Cup squad. India is in a funny situation where the loss of an opener is weakening the middle order. KL Rahul, who was India’s No.4 in the two matches so far, is most likely to be promoted to open the innings in place of the injured Shikhar Dhawan. The No. 4 slot becomes vacant again with Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik looking to grasp the opportunity. India also have the opportunity to promote MS. Dhoni to No. 4 with Dinesh Karthik coming in as a finisher along with Hardik Pandya. It will also be interesting to see whether Pant would walk into the side in case he replaces Dhawan in the squad.
Though Rishabh Pant is hugely appreciated as an immensely gifted batsman, his non-selection for the World Cup was justified by his temperament(or lack of it). He is a proven match winner with the bat and good enough with the gloves. But is he still raw? Is he a work in progress? Pant has far too often got out playing a rash shot during important phases in the match. This led to criticism of his match awareness and temperament. Pant’s stroke-making ability is beyond question, but is he ready to bat at No. 4 for India on the biggest stage?