Rishabh Pant’s World Cup selection hopes hinge on his X-factor

Rishabh Pant has been inconsistent in international cricket and IPL. But the selectors, it is understood, may not merely go by his current run. The manner in which Pant has batted in Tests and caused worry to rival teams may be taken into consideration by the selectors.

With no sure shot candidate to take over the number four batting spot in India’s one-day squad, the national selectors could be forced to look at potential than numbers while deciding the position when they pick the World Cup squad on Monday.

Rishabh Pant has been inconsistent in international cricket and IPL. But the selectors, it is understood, may not merely go by his current run. The manner in which Pant has batted in Tests and caused worry to rival teams may be taken into consideration by the selectors.

The young keeper-batsman is thus seen as a strong candidate for India’s unsettled number 4 spot. Being a left-hander is also seen as an advantage as it could provide the team flexibility in the batting order, giving him an upperhand over Ambati Rayudu.

Tackling leg-spinners

The bowling strategy of most teams involves a good leg-spinner and the team think thank believes a left-handed batsman could tackle the stock delivery coming into him better than a right-handed player. Australia leg-spinner Adam Zampa had troubled hosts India in their comeback 3-2 series win, England have Adil Rashid and Afghanistan Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Currently, India depend on the form of left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan. They want him to bat till almost the halfway mark and blunt the effectiveness of leg-spinners. The team think tank is toying with the idea of using Pant as a back-up to Dhawan – at least for the first three-four World Cup games when a pattern is likely to be set and the batsman are expected to settle down.

Pant has outscored Dinesh Karthik – averaging 35 plus in six IPL games before Friday’s clash between Delhi Capitals and the latter’s Kolkata Knight Riders, at Eden Gardens.

Rayudu was the front-runner for the India number 4 slot, but his form tapered off in the home series against Australia and then in IPL. He was not picked in the final two games of the series, which the visitors won 3-2.

Rayudu had come into contention on the basis of his IPL form, but had a poor run this season with CSK until his match-winning 57 against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday. The slow pitches in Chennai and resultant low-scoring games haven’t given Rayudu much chance either.

Shreyas an option

Another middle-order option is Shreyas Iyer, the Delhi Capitals skipper and Mumbai No 3. In IPL, he is the second highest run-getter among Indians, after KL Rahul. He had aggregated 215 runs (before Friday’s KKR tie) with three fifties, averaging 35.83. Shreyas, 24, is seen as a batsman for the future, the aggressive player having impressed for India A too.

Ravindra Jadeja is likely to be in contention too with his left-arm spin, brilliant fielding and ability to score runs down the order. The round robin World Cup format makes it a gruelling tournament, and India would want to ensure the tail-enders can also contribute with the bat. Hardik Pandya at No 7, Jadeja at 8, Bhuvneshwar Kumar at 9 and two specialist bowlers are thus in the reckoning.

It will be a tough call for the selectors when picking an extra batsman as they have to decide whether to pick a back-up opener. Here, KL Rahul has strengthened his case with runs and his manner of batting in IPL. The KXIP opener adopts a measured approach at the start before accelerating in the end.

Source: Hindustan Times

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