Rishabh Pant, the 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, should be included in India’s squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2019, according to former India left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra.
Nehra has tracked Pant’s progress in Delhi and international cricket since he first joined the Sonnet Club. He feels the big hitter has the x-factor and termed him a “match-winner.”
“In a team, there will always be contributors but at a big event like the World Cup, you need players with X-factor. Rishabh Pant is not a mere contributor but a pure match-winner who should be picked for the World Cup,” Nehra told PTI.
Nehra added, “If you look at India’s batting line up, save Shikhar (Dhawan), there aren’t any left-handers in the top seven. You need variety with a left-right combination, where Rishabh perfectly fits.”
Pant can also be used as a “floater” in the line-up, Nehra pointed out. “Rishabh can bat at any position between Nos. 1 to 7 and so Virat [Kohli] and the team management can use him as a floater,” he said.
Pant also possesses the ability to hit sixes “effortlessly,” believes Nehra. “If it comes to effortlessly hitting sixes, Rishabh comes second only to Rohit Sharma with his big-hitting ability. India will need that in abundance during the World Cup,” he said.
He added, “This team has three clear match-winners and they are Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. For me, the fourth one is going to be Rishabh Pant. Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik are all fantastic players but they are all in the same mould. You need X-factor which this boy possesses.”
Ashish Nehra: “Rishabh [Pant] is a pure match-winner.” File Photo: V. V. Subrahmanyam
Can a seasoned finisher like Karthik be overlooked at the expense of a rookie? Nehra replied, “As I have already said, Rishabh could also be your third opener, so DK (Dinesh Karthik) could be your middle-order batter.”
Looking at Pant and Karthik as wicketkeepers is wrong, Nehra cautioned. “I don’t look at it from that perspective. If Rishabh and DK are being picked ahead of specialist batsmen like Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer, then you are looking at them as specialist batsmen. So why complicate the thought process? As it is we have the peerless M. S. Dhoni behind stumps so treat both as specialist batsmen.”