Samson or Pant: T20 World Cup conundrum for Virat Kohli

Rishabh Pant hasn't played since suffering concussion against Australia in Mumbai and Sanju Samson is yet to make a big score reaffirming his white-ball ability.

Who will fly to Australia for the T20 World Cup later this year: Rishabh Pant or Sanju Samson?   -  K. V. S. GIRI

Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir doesn't get tired of talking about Sanju Samson's explosive talent; he had even suggested that the Kerala batsman could have been India's No. 4 at the last World Cup.

The selectors, however, were not convinced. Samson's lack of consistency in domestic tournaments didn't help, either. However, in the Indian Premier League he had proved time and again how destructive he could be in T20s.

After playing some stunning innings for the Rajasthan Royals in the last IPL, he begun the new season in cracking form, hammering a 48-ball 91 for India-A against South Africa-A in his hometown, Thiruvananthapuram. He followed it up with a record-breaking 212 not out off 129 balls for Kerala against Goa in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in Bengaluru.

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And, it was for the shortest format that Samson returned to international cricket — four years after playing his only T20I, against Zimbabwe at Harare. This was a well-earned recall for Sanju, but the flamboyant right-hander has failed to make the most of the opportunity. After failing in the fourth T20I, where he opened the innings with KL Rahul, Samson once again stuttered at the start in the fifth and final T20I in Mount Maunganui.

Kuggeleijn bowled an overpitched delivery wide outside off, only for Samson to drill a drive away and offer Mitch Santner a simple chance at short cover. While Samson is a fine white-ball striker, he is in desperate need of a big score to reaffirm his ability ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.

The Pant conundrum

Meanwhile, Rishabh Pant continued to warm the bench in this series. Pant hasn't played since the series opener against Australia in Mumbai, where he sustained a concussion towards the end of India's innings when he tried to pull a bouncer from Pat Cummins.

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Former opener Virender Sehwag had recently questioned the Indian team’s decision to bench Rishabh Pant during the ongoing T20 International series in New Zealand asking, “Rishabh Pant has been left out, how will he score runs? If you bench Sachin Tendulkar also, he won’t be able to score runs. If you feel he is a match-winner, why don’t you play him? Because he is not consistent?”

With KL Rahul donning the keeping gloves and hitting a purple patch with the bat, Pant and Samson's limited-overs spot is now in a tricky situation.

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