While India continues to struggle with the bat in England in the overall analysis, the batting of Rishabh Pant has started to cause a huge concern within the Indian team management. Pant’s returns in this test series is a mere 96 runs in 6 innings at a deplorable average of 16 !!
Pant, who earlier too had few subdued periods in Test cricket, notably in West Indies 2019 and in New Zealand in 2020, scored only 45 in the 2 innings of the WTC Final in June 2021.
Pant was not in the first XI of the last series in Australia in 2020-21 at the beginning. However, he lost weight before the series and went on to play two of the most well talked about knocks in Indian cricket ….97 at SCG and then the most cherished knock of 89* at the Gabba taking India to a famous series win. Having averaged 50 plus in both the Australia series and the subsequent England series at home, Pant looked set to conquer the world.
However abject batting displays at the WTC final, particularly in the 2nd innings where Pant played an irresponsible shot seem to start a dangerous trend and that is continuing in the current series where he either failed to cope with the swing or played irresponsible shots. The latest one at the Oval 1st innings has once again proved that Pant seems to be taking things for granted as the reserve keeper Wriddhiman Saha though a brilliant keeper, has average batting credentials.
Pant has looked totally out of sorts and it won’t be a bad idea to play Wriddhiman in the last test to make Pant realise that his spot in the team does not come with any guarantees.
Wriddhiman Saha has 3 test hundreds, 1200 plus test runs with 29 average and his keeping skills are second to none. Hence he can definitely take Pant’s spot in the last test.
However Saha is 35, and India needs a strong wicketkeeper-batsman to challenge Pant going forward. Ishan Kishan can be a good choice as he is a good keeper and a talented hard-hitting lefthanded batsman in the Pant mould. Also, Kishan possesses more variety of shots all around the ground and does not favour any particular side of the ground unlike Pant, who tends to play more on the on side. Kishan has already made a successful debut in T20I cricket for India.
Sanju Samson can be another option as his batting is more technically sound that both Pant and Kishan. However, he is not very consistent.
A 3rd option is Srikar Bharat who is a useful batsman and the best young gloveman in the country in the Saha mould. Hence there are lots of options to look at to challenge Pant’s spot.
Pant must understand, that there are a lot of keeping talents waiting in the wings and therefore he has to be more judicious in shot selection and pick the right balls to hit as he did in Australia without losing his flair for shots. The head coach and the batting coach needs to speak to him and the think tank needs to have a keeper in reserves who can challenge Pant as a batsman too in order to make him believe that he cannot take his spot for granted in the team.