“How is @RishabPant777 not in the World Cup squad …… Pretty sure #India still have time to change …….. !!!!!” – tweeted former England captain Michael Vaughan after the end of the Eliminator between Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019.
Vaughan was expressing his amazement at Pant’s swashbuckling 21-ball 49 in a tense chase that helped Delhi clinch the Playoff match stunningly. The 21-year-old wicket-keeper batsman has not been selected in the Indian squad for the ICC ODI World Cup in England which begins later this month. The more experienced Dinesh Karthik has been opted for in Pant’s place.
Vaughan, along with many former cricketers, had expressed their surprise on Pant’s omission from the big event as he has, what many believe, that X-Factor. In IPL 2019, Pant has amassed 450 runs thus far at a stunning strike rate of 163.63. He has smashed 26 sixes and has shown on multiple occasions that when in his elements he can take the game away from the opposition with his power hitting within a matter of minutes.
A maturing Rishabh Pant
It is widely believed that one of the reasons for Rishabh Pant’s omission from the World Cup was his proclivity to play rash and reckless strokes at crucial moments and throw his wicket away. Pant has indeed done that a few times in his short international stay so far.
In fact, in the first half of this season of the IPL, Pant lost his wicket on quite a few occasions to careless shots that cost Delhi some vital games. However, the youngster seems to be learning from his mistakes and has shown some maturity by trying to contain himself and finish games for the team. In the second half of the season, Pant has already played three terrific match-winning knocks in a chase that has left an impact – 78* off 36 balls v Rajasthan Royals, 53* off 38 balls v Rajasthan Royals and 49 off 21 balls v Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator.
So is Rishabh Pant now maturing as a batsman and has India committed a fatal error by not selecting him in the World Cup team?
Will Rishabh Pant’s absence hurt Team India in the World Cup?
The Indian ODI middle-order has mainly been unstable and has lacked punch as has been evident in the last couple of years. MS Dhoni’s strike-rate in the middle-overs has been a nagging issue, and Dinesh Karthik is known to be inconsistent. Kedar Jadhav is facing an injury and might not be fully fit in time for the event. Even Vijay Shankar, who is likely to be the No.4 for India at the World Cup, doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Rishabh Pant has it in him to make a difference in the middle-order with his aggressive style of batting and ability to change the complexion of the game. All he needs is a long rope. Pant struck a coruscating 114 in a Test match in England last year and the pitches in the World Cup, which should be batting-friendly, would suit him. In a tournament like this, a couple of match-changing knocks by Pant in important games can have a huge effect.
The exclusion of Pant might, hence, really come back to bite India at some time during the event.