The left-handed wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant has been left out of the limited-overs squad for India’s tour of Australia starting next month. Pant has only been named in the Test-match squad, along with Wriddhiman Saha as the second wicket-keeper batsman.
For many, it came as a surprise since Pant was picked as the lone wicket-keeper in the previous few limited-overs squads. Even though there were ominous signs that Team India was moving away from Pant for a time being towards KL Rahul when Rahul batted at No 5 in the ODIs against New Zealand and Pant wasn’t even part of the Playing XI.
The people on the other spectrum have a view that if they had shown so much faith and trust for so long, why not give another chance.
But, the squad’s announcement puzzled everyone. Pant was initially their first-choice wicket-keeper batsman in the white-ball games, then he was picked in the Test matches. He scored hundreds in England and Australia to stake his claim as the regular wicket-keeper and a useful batter at No 7, especially in overseas conditions in the longest format of the game.
After scoring 488 runs in the last IPL, striking at 162, he got drafted into the World Cup squad as an injury replacement. He played ahead of Dinesh Karthik (originally in the squad) at No. 4, and a year later, he doesn’t find a place in the limited-overs squad and is there for just the tests.
A report in The Times of India had stated that Team India’s fitness trainer had a meeting with Pant where he was found overweight. This could be the factor that might keep him out of contention when the selectors picked the team for the Australia tour.
Statistics Dictating the Selectors’ decision
After not being part of the Playing XI in the Indian team in New Zealand matches, the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) was the best opportunity for Pant to solidify his place in the Indian team. But Pant has come with meagre returns of 217 runs in the 8 games he has played, with a strike rate of just 117.
Not just in the IPL, Pant’s last few matches in the Indian shirt too haven’t been productive as far as the run-scoring is concerned. His position in the playing XI ahead of Karthik showed that the Indian team had moved on to Rishabh Pant as the wk-batsman.
Since then, he featured in 18 white-ball matches (including T20Is and ODIs) for India in the year 2019. In 15 out of them, in which he batted, he was out for a duck three times, scored a couple of fifties and in the other ones, he had scores of 4, 20, 4, 19, 27, 6, 18, 33*, 39, 7 and 1*.
The percentage of low-scores was more than the fifties (71 being the highest against West Indies in an ODI) and the manner in which he was getting out in almost every game was similar, maybe that’s his game (going for a big shot early in his innings). But the signs came in India’s one-day series against Australia at home in January this year.
After playing the first ODI, Pant was hit on the helmet and couldn’t take part in the remaining games after suffering a concussion.
However, even after regaining full fitness, Pant was not played in the third match. The captain Virat Kohli said KL Rahul as a wicket-keeper gave them an option of playing an extra batsman and added that there was no need to change as Rahul had scored a quick 80 (52) in the second ODI. Pant scored 28 runs in the first match.
Simultaneously, another wicket-keeper batsman, Sanju Samson was also picked for the T20I squads, which was another sign that India had started looking for options at Pant’s position.
After Virat confirmed that KL Rahul will be the keeper against New Zealand, Rahul played all the 8 games (5 T20Is and 3 ODIs) and Pant didn’t get a single game. Rahul in those 8 games, scored 3 fifties and a hundred batting at opening, No 3, No 5, basically at every position. Rahul rightfully is now the sole wicket-keeping option in the ODI squad with Samson as the second in T20Is.
"“Rishabh Pant is struggling at the moment in white-ball cricket, he’s struggling with his timing, he’s struggling with explosive part of his cricket which was his strength. But sometimes you need to put an arm around people. I hope this has not broken him. I hope he’s got some solid people around him as I think he is a little confused right now.”" - Harsha Bhogle, Commentator and Journalist, on CricbuzzTwitter Divided on Pant’s Non-Selection
Netizens as expected were divided on Pant’s exclusion from the limited-overs squads. Some felt it was expected due to his fitness issues and lack of runs, while some said it was unfair on Pant after they backed him in so many games.
Here are some of the reactions:
Amidst all this, the fans are hopeful that the non-selection might just trigger the destroyer in Pant, dismantling bowling attacks, which he is most known for. As, the last time when he was left out of the World Cup 2019 squad, he smashed runs in the latter half of the IPL 2019. And, if this happens again, it will definitely be good news for his and Delhi Capitals’ fans and the remaining campaign.
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