Right now it’s hard to be Pant. He is training for a day that may or may not come in this World Cup. With the team management naming Dinesh Karthik as finisher, come what may, the only slot available Pants is that of opener next to Rohit Sharma, a slot which currently through KL Rahulwho also happens to be the vice-captain.
Rahul’s lack of form has been the object of much ridicule on social media, but the Indian team management seems undeterred for now.
In Australia, Rahul lasted a total of 20 balls: eight at the MCG and 12 in Sydney. Against Pakistan, he bowled a 142 km/h scorcher Naseem Shah. Against the Netherlands, he was given out LBW, but the ball seemed to go down and the batsman could have well reviewed it.
Rahul’s T20 luck seems to have been missing so far, although he scored two 50-plus scores against South Africa in Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati about a month ago. But he also has nine single-figure scores, including three ducks, from 2021 to now. His T20 average and strike rate have both taken a hit since 2021, dropping from 44.05 to 28.95 and 144.92 to 127.19 respectively.
Pant didn’t exactly break down the barn door either in the few chances he got. If Rahul fails to find form, it may necessitate a change. One of the reasons Pant is being discussed as a top-order option is because he hasn’t always clicked lower down. Asked if there are any moves to consider playing Pant, batting coach Vikram Rathore categorically said, “No. We’re not thinking about that. I don’t think that (two matches in the WC) is a good enough sample size anyway. Rahul has batted well. He’s batted well in the practice matches. So, we nothing changes.”
Holding the door slightly open for Pant, Rathour said, “The message to him is to be ready and his chance can come anytime. Unfortunately, only 11 can play. Rishabh is a fantastic player and he can be devastating against any opposition.”
Asked what kind of role the team management wanted Rahulon whether to be the aggressor or more of an anchor in such conditions, Rathour said, “A good partnership is one where each complements the other. If Rahul is in good form, he can also be the aggressor.”
Does this mean that Rahul is not in good form now? In T20s such ideas have limited shelf life for quality players like Rahul. A little bit of luck and things will fall into place. If not, lay Pant and wait.