ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022: The toss between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik for wicket-keeper place?
Where does Rishabh Pant fit in the scheme of things as far as the T20I playing XI is concerned for the upcoming ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 to be held in Australia? This is the burning question for the millions of Indian cricket fans across the globe and to an extent for the team management.
The left-handed wicketkeeper batter Rishabh Pant no doubt is a match-winner on his day and can take the game away from the opposition in a jiffy. We have witnessed this from the 24-year-old on multiple occasions especially in the longest format of the game. But for some reason, he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success he gets in Tests and IPL in the international white ball formats thus far.
The team management with skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid at the helm have tried the talented wicketkeeper-batter at multiple batting positions in the last few months in the T20I format. In the absence of regular opener KL Rahul, Pant even opened the innings in two T20Is against England but he couldn’t get going as he would have liked.
Just when we thought, he is being viewed as an opener for the Asia Cup 2022 and World Cup 2022 with KL Rahul still unavailable, India opted to try Suryakumar Yadav as the opener instead in the T20I series against West Indies with reasonable success.
While Rishabh Pant is almost a certainty to book a ticket as part of India’s squad for Australia, the current scenario raises a doubt on whether the southpaw will be able to find a spot in the playing XI.
There are reasons to back the above statement as well.
The return of KL Rahul in the side
KL Rahul has been long absent from India’s squad since a long time due to a spate of injuries and Covid-related issues. But the opener is one of the best white ball players in India and will most likely walk into the team once he is fit.
The Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) skipper is almost indispensable in this Indian team once he is fit and raring to go. He may not have played much international games for India recently, but has scored runs in a heap in the IPL 2022. KL Rahul made 616 runs at an average of over 51, striking at 135. This is the fifth consecutive aggregate of 550 or more runs in a season and has been a prolific run-getter for India in this format as well over the years.
This leaves Suryakumar Yadav to take a spot in the middle-order owing to his spectacular batting form in this format. Afterall, he is ranked second in the ICC Men’s T20I player rankings currently and he is easily the best T20 batter in India at present. SKY has scored 428 runs in T20Is this year at an astounding strike rate of close to 190 in 12 games.
With the stature of a player like Virat Kohli waiting in the wings, this leaves Pant in a tricky situation. And his average returns in T20Is have not helped his case either.
Pant also made a last-ditch effort in the WI series to make a case for the World T20, making 115 runs in four games at a strike rate of 141, but it is appearing to be too little too late?
Presence of other wicketkeepers in the side
India’s white ball team has a plethora of talent when it comes to wicketkeepers in the white ball formats. With Dinesh Karthik making a strong case for himself with his performances as a specialist finisher both for his IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and India in the last few months, he seems to have sealed a place for the World T20 in Australia.
DK turned heads in IPL 2022 by piling up 330 runs at an average of 55 and striking at 183. Though his returns for India this year are somewhat underwhelming (180 runs at 133.33), Karthik has made a couple of match-winning contributions as a finisher.
KL Rahul has kept wickets in the past for India and may do that if required in future as well. This makes Rishabh Pant no longer a certainty in the playing XI when all the big stars return. However, in the recent 15-member squad announcement for Asia Cup 2022, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik are chosen as specialist wicket-keepers.
Rishabh Pant also faces competition from Ishan Kishan who is currently the 14th-ranked T20I batter in international cricket. Kishan has scored three fifties this year for India but has failed to convert some decent starts he got in the games against South Africa in June 2022. Despite that, Kishan is a formidable hand and will give Pant a run for his place. However, BCCI have shown the exit doors to Ishan Kishan from Asia Cup 2022 squad.
Rishabh Pant in middle or Dinesh Karthik as Finisher?
India’s tactics in the last couple of T20I series has been to go with six bowling options. With Hardik Pandya bowling his full quota of overs and in an outstanding manner, India have struck a great combination. They can now play with six genuine bowling options with either of the all-rounders Deepak Hooda or Ravindra Jadeja acting as the 6th bowler along with being the lower middle-order finishers. Also, the four other bowlers pick themselves.
While India have been going with this approach for quite a while, this will leave India in conundrum to pick Rishabh Pant the middle-order batter who can maintain the left-right combination or Dinesh Karthik the finisher who had done wonders for RCB in IPL 2022?
India’s squad for Asia Cup 2022
Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan
Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar, Axar Patel