Friday, June 21, 2024

Should Rishabh Pant open for India in the 2022 Asia Cup?

India is all but sure that Rishabh Pant is a regular T20I starter for them. However, he has not found any success in the format as a middle-order batsman.

Ever since his international debut in February 2017, Rishabh Pant has been a hot topic of discussion in India. He already has more overseas test centuries than every other Indian wicket-keeper combined, and his 89* played a primary role in the famous Gabba Heist. More recently, a Pant hundred helped Rohit and co. trample England in their own backyard in an ODI series. 

But apart from that unbeaten 113-ball-125, the southpaw has been very mediocre in limited overs cricket. In his 70 innings across ODIs and T20 internationals, Pant averages just 27.89. These returns diminish to 806 runs from 46 innings if we consider only T20 internationals. 

There is a consistent and meritful demand of dropping Rishabh from the shortest format of the game. 

India is, regardless, all but sure that Rishabh Pant is a regular T20I starter for them. But is there any space for him? 

Hardik Pandya has found his touch back and is the team’s primary middle-order batsman. Dinesh Karthik is all set to be the finisher after an IPL 2022 where he smacked 284 runs at an average and strike rate of 57.40 and 191.33 respectively. King Kohli and Suryakumar are irreplaceable as the numbers three and four. 

The case for Rishabh Pant as India’s opener for the 2022 Asia Cup

Rishabh Pant is yet to make a batting spot his own.
PHOTOGRAPH: BCCI

There is no slot available, except the one at the top and Pant, was tried there for the last two T20Is against England. He replied with an attacking 24 and a poor 1 off 5. 

Though he is playing at number 4 during the ongoing tour of the Caribbean, Rishabh Pant more or less faced the new ball during the second T20I and looked like a game-changer for his 12-ball-24 on a pitch where every other Indian batter struggled. He also slogged an unplayable Obed McCoy for a maximum.

The takeaway is that Rishabh Pant has shown some impact in the powerplay. Though the impact has surely been small, it still serves the team better than his confusion and mediocrity as a middle-order bat. 

There aren’t any opening options in the Indian squad for the 2022 Asia Cup. Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson are surely a part of it, but Ishan doesn’t seem to be a part of the T20WC plans and Sanju throws it away even in domestic cricket. First-choice opener KL Rahul is down due to fitness issues.

Therefore, the 2022 Asia Cup is the perfect time for Rishabh Pant to get a few games as Rohit’s opening partner. 

If he manages to utilize the field restrictions in the powerplay, he is a better option than Kishan (who often starts off slow). If he fails, KL Rahul can get a direct entry into India’s 2022 World Cup XI and the management can drop Rishabh Pant for the time being. 

Since India really wants to fit him in the playing eleven for the upcoming T20 World Cup, taking a punt on Pant as an opener for the 2022 Asia Cup is a pretty sensible option.

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