After a dominating performance in the ODI series against the Kiwis, where Men In Blue defeated their opponents by a comfortable margin of 4-1, they were outplayed by the hosts completely in the 1st T20I at Wellington couple of days prior. Chasing a mammoth target of 220, India struggled to put up a decent partnership throughout the match. Faltering at 139 runs, it proved out to be the biggest T20I defeats for India.
Being criticised for his poor & slow performance in the opening T20I against the Kiwis, Pant was seen struggling to middle the ball against the slow left armer, Mitchell Santner. Pant failed to create an impact on the game and fell cheaply for mere 4 runs in his 10 balls knock. Former captain of India, Sunil Gavaskar backed the youngster pointing that it isn’t an easy task to perform especially in T20Is soon after joining the team.
Before taking a flight to Newzealand, Pant played couple of ODIs for India A against England Lions where he registered scores of 7 & 73 respectively.
India faced yet another challenge by the same opponents at Eden Park, Auckland in the 2nd T20I of the series, the same ground where the Kiwis were defeated by Australia in the T2OI tri-series, played last year during the similar time frame. The match witnessed seventh ever highest score in T20I for Kiwis. Beating opposition on a drop-in and slowish pitch of Eden Park with no grass-cover was no easy cakewalk for Men in Blue. With the coin flipping in favour of the hosts, India was given a challenging task to chase 159 runs to level the series. With the hitman blazing towards 100 sixes in T20I, Shikar Dhawan was seen adjusting down in middle with a relatively run-a-ball strike rate. Post the dismissal of in-form captain Rohit Sharma; Rishabh Pant played with a positive approach post his poor shot selection in the 1st T20 encounter which resulted in his dismissal. After the blistering knock of 159* in the 3rd test against Aussies in January, Pant was eager to utilize the platform to full extent to showcase his limited oversability to the selectors. Requiring 80 runs with the required run rate close to 8, Rishabh Pant joined in Shikhar Dhawan to take the innings ahead. The partnership didn’t last for too long though as the latter fall prey to Lockie Ferguson in the very next over.
Pant showcased spunk in such a tricky situation and ensured that India didn’t press panic button by losing quick wickets thereafter. In his 28 ball knock, Pant created excitement among the crowd with his various shot selection. One handed six off Tim Southee and back drive off Scott Kuggelej in showcased the talent in the youngster. Adding 54 runs along with Dhoni and prevention of further wickets, Rishabh Pant cruised India towards the victory with 7 balls to spare.
With the doors of middle order line-up still vacant for the playing XI in the upcoming 50 overs World Cup scheduled to play from May end in England, Pant has certainly created a positive impact on selectors to consider him.
In an odd complexity of misfortune, Pant is stuck in a unique debate among “not experienced enough” and “not given chance against experienced teams.” If things are considered on priority, Pant’s little experience could make him lose the spot for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
Despite chief selector MSK Prasad ensuring Pant as one of the key contenders for upcoming World Cup, it would be exciting to see whether the youngster gets a chance to play maiden tournament for the senior national team.