India vs Bangladesh: Out of Tests, Pant, Dhawan up for T20 test
Out of the Test team, which demands plenty of patience and restraint to go with skill, Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant were back at the India nets on Saturday doing what they are best known for—give the ball a mighty thwack—as they prepared for the first T20 against Bangladesh.
With the rest of the batsmen relatively inexperienced and less acclaimed, the two, with skipper Rohit Sharma, will be important if India are to outscore Bangladesh on a Ferozeshah Kotla wicket that looks good but could also aid spinners.
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On Friday, as Pant was hitting rasping straight shots, coach Ravi Shastri shouted, “Be careful. Make sure you don’t hit him (the one giving throw-downs).”
Pant is a hard-hitter, a match-winner with the bat. None of the other wicket-keeping options can match his ability to score quickly, and produce boundaries frequently. He transformed his batting in IPL, holding the middle order for Delhi Capitals and helping them enter the playoffs. However, his unpolished wicket-keeping kept him out of the Test series against South Africa.
Former India batsman and coach Anshuman Gaekwad recently told HT, “He still has some distance to cover in wicket-keeping to match MS Dhoni or Wriddhiman Saha.” However, the team management knows he is too valuable to be left out of the T20 squad. India have Sanju Samson and Pant as the two wicket-keeping options in this series—KL Rahul is the other option. But the team will give Pant, who played the ODI World Cup as a batsman, a good run.
“You mentioned two wicket-keepers, both are very talented. We’ve stuck with Rishabh all this while and this is the format he addresses more, that got him a lot more attention. This is the format he excelled to start with. We have to stick with him for a while and see how he performs and what he does because we have seen how well he can take the game forward if he has his day. We just need to back him a little more. He has hardly played 10 or 15 T20s, so it is still very early to judge him,” said Sharma.
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For Dhawan, who has lost his place in Tests to Mayank Agarwal and Sharma but who has been part of the limited-overs side and made a good start at the World Cup before pulling out due to injury, this will be an important series with young challengers breathing down his neck. He got good starts in the last T20 series against South Africa, but half-centuries have eluded him. His last came over 10 games back, almost a year ago.
On Friday, Dhawan worked on his drives and his pickup shot on the leg side, asking for the ball to be thrown at his legs. He then asked for balls in the slot for the drive.
Last IPL, he scored five half-centuries in 16 games, scoring over 500 runs at an impressive strike rate of 135-plus.
But it will be his India performances over the next few months, especially the consistency with which he gets starts and the frequency with which he converts them into fifties, which will see him make the cut for the T20 World Cup.