T20 WC: Pant would be India's first choice keeper, says Ratra

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | May 02, 2024 IST

Rishabh Pant

New Delhi, May 2: Back on cricket field after the horrific car accident, Delhi Capitals captain and wicket-keeper batter Rishabh Pant has proved what strong determination and relentless efforts can achieve.

The DC skipper has excelled well as a leader, keeper and more importantly as the same fearsome batter in the middle-orders. 

Obviously, his counterpart in the Indian squad for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Sanju Samson, has done a better job for his IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals this season. Samson has been an exceptional performer in the IPL in the last couple of seasons. 

Samson too have played for India in a few white-ball games. But inconsistency has been his main problem in Team India jersey. Immensely talented, cool headed and a great cricketer Samson, definitely has not been that impressive, whenever he has played for India, excepting on a few occasions.

But Rishabh though has got more opportunities, but in both red and white-ball cricket, he has at times been very impressive. He has played some memorable knocks. Returning from the tragic accident, his gloves-work and smartness behind the stumps too have been more impressive.

While this is the first time Samson has been picked in an India squad for senior men's World Cups, Pant is returning to the national set-up for the first time since recovering from injuries suffered in a life-threatening car accident in December 2022.

In IPL 2024, Samson has amassed 385 runs in nine innings at a strike rate of 161. On the other hand, Pant has scored 398 runs in 11 innings at a strike-rate of 159. Pant obviously have played two matches more than Samson as per the IPL 2024 schedule so far.

Ajay Ratra, the former India wicketkeeper-batter, believes Pant would be his first choice over Samson, citing his good returns on being back at playing competitive cricket.

"I do think Rishabh will be given the preference to be the first-choice wicketkeeper-batter for India in the T20 World Cup. Rishabh has been doing really well since his return from injury. Plus, him being a left-handed batter in the middle-order and having lots of experience of playing international cricket in all formats is also advantageous,” he said in an exclusive conversation with IANS.

In IPL 2024, as per statistics provided by Cricket-21, Samson’s strike rate of 138 in the first ten balls is better than 119 recorded by Pant in the same phase. Moreover, Samson’s strike-rate of 159 in overs 7-15 is more than Pant’s strike-rate of 139 in that phase.

But Pant has the edge over Samson in overs 16-20 – his strike rate of 229 is more than 206 recorded by the latter. There were doubts over Pant managing his wicket-keeping workload, especially after having a right ligament reconstruction surgery.

But so far, he has impressed onlookers with his swift movement behind the stumps - taking 11 catches and effecting three stumpings. With the bat, Pant has shown glimpses of his vintage shots, which has been a heart-warming sight for cricket fans.

"Rishabh’s keeping style is his own creation, which doesn’t fall under the copybook style of wicket-keeping. So far, he’s been reasonably successful in that – he has taken some really good catches in IPL 2024, especially his leg-side takes and one-handed grabs.

"He’s progressed really well in his batting returns since overcoming that tragedy and injuries, especially with no game time behind him. Whenever he gets out, the manner of his dismissal looks very ugly. But then Rishabh’s forte is to stick to his style of shots – like the one-handed sixes and the strokes he plays over fine leg despite losing his balance at times," added Ratra.

Ratra believes Samson’s current form and strike rate in IPL 2024 was enough to get him the nod over KL Rahul, who was in India’s squad for the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia.

 "I feel slightly bad for Rahul, as I do think if the pitches become a little difficult and slow for batting, Rahul would have been handy. Like, from what I have seen of him, whenever the team is in pressure situations irrespective of the format, Rahul has performed.

"If the pitches are conducive for stroke play, then it’s good. But if pitches provide some help to the bowlers, Rahul would have been an ideal batter for the Indian team. At the same time, it was also a difficult job for the selectors to choose between either Rahul or Sanju. But I believe Sanju will grab his opportunities with both hands whenever it comes in the World Cup," he stated.

Ratra, who played six Tests and 12 ODIs for India, opined that Rinku Singh’s omission from the 15-member squad was very unfortunate, citing his exceptional performances as a finisher, while recording a strike-rate of 176.23, in the format since his international debut last year. Rinku, though, is among the four travelling reserves for India in the mega event, where they face Ireland in the opening match in New York on June 5.

"I felt very bad about Rinku Singh missing out on the main squad. He has been doing really well for the last one year. He is a busy player at the crease, has been consistent with his performances and has shown the ability to get runs against spinners and pacers.

"I do understand that he didn’t get much innings to bat in IPL 2024, but he’s very unfortunate to miss out. Mind you, he’s a very good fielder and there won’t be impact player rule in T20 World Cup – which means all guys in the playing eleven have to do fielding duties. Like, there isn’t a choice for the teams where a lesser impact fielder can be substituted for someone who’s a better fielder," he said.

Ratra signed off by observing India are bulky in their spin-bowling options, comprising Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal. "Drop-in pitches remain generally on the slower side, but let’s see what kind of matches will it produce – 200+ games or 170-ish scoring games. There’s no doubt India has taken a spin-heavy team for the World Cup."

Whether Pant or Samson, whoever gets the opportunity, India would expect their wicket-keeper batter on field on the day, delivers the best. Both have potentials and both can win matches on a given day. (With IANS support)

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