IND vs SA T20I: Pressure mounts on Pant as India looks to draw first blood

Rishabh Pant’s form would be an important sub-plot when India looks to seize the advantage against South Africa in the second T20 International on Wednesday after a washout in Dharamsala effectively made the series a two-match affair.

Hardik Pandya sweats it out at the nets in Mohali.   -  PTI

If there is a change of mindset in India’s approach to T20 cricket, the start could well come across in Wednesday’s clash against South Africa.

For long, India has found it tough to justify its rather conventional approach to batting in the first 10-12 overs, keeping wickets for the back end-charge then going for broke.

Since Virat Kohli categorically stated that the depth of batting in any combination was going to be considered, it obviously allows the top-order to bat with more freedom.

The other day at Dharamshala, Kohli emphasised, “If all teams across the world are batting till No. 9, 10, why can’t we?” That in effect, compels the specialist bowlers to spend more time at the ‘nets’ with bat in their hands!

Rishabh Pant cheers his fans during a training session at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Monday.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

 

At the same time, it could help the international T20 careers of Ravindra Jadeja and Krunal Pandya, who have better batting credentials than Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.

Given the inexperience of this visiting team, playing on Indian pitches, spinners could prove a handful, especially the variety offered by leggie Rahul Chahar.

With this assumption, India has the luxury of going in with six bowling options, including three spinners. Pace-bowlers Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini and Hardik Pandya along with spinners Krunal Pandya or Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar and Rahul Chahar enhance India’s wicket-taking abilities.

In fact, South Africa’s wicketkeeper-captain Quinton de Kock should know Rahul’s worth since they turn up for Mumbai Indians. In the batting department, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant appear a certainty, with Hardik to follow.

READ: 'Pant needs to sort out his game plan a little more'

What adds to the interest is South Africa’s preparedness to test the Indian batting might. In the squad of 14, South Africa has nine bowling options!

Much like India, South Africa is likely to go in with five specialist batsmen, three all-rounders and rest specialist bowlers. Looking at the top-order, India will look to cash in on the collective inexperience of Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen. Similarly, South African batsmen visualise exploiting the lack of experience of Indian bowlers.

With the sun shining brightly here, action is sure to begin in what is effectively a two-match series. In 2015, when South Africa last played a three-match T20 series, one match was rained off and India lost the other two.

Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, with one eye on statistics, will be eager to return the favour this week.

The squads

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini.

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (c), Rassie van der Dussen (vc), Temba Bauvma, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukyao, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde.

Match Starts 7 pm.