Rishabh Pant, Kohli Ahead in Selection Race of T20 World Cup Squad

With a red-hot form, Virat Kohli is now certain of playing in the marquee event to be played this year, amidst his strike rate discussions.

Rishabh Pant, Kohli Ahead in Selection Race of T20 World Cup Squad

The Indian team for the T20 World Cup is unlikely to feature too many surprises, barring the recall of Rishabh Pant if one were to term the selection of a proven match-winner with 33 Tests, 30 ODIs, and 66 T20Is as unexpected. Whatever that, the wicketkeeper-batsman, who went off the radar of Indian cricket due to a dreadful accident more than 16 months ago, is in line for a recall into the Indian team.

His recent performances in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) seem to have given him a definite edge over his other contenders for the position and the Indian team and the think-tank is believed to be convinced that he is ready for international action. Unless he comes up with abysmally poor scores, he could be on the flight to the US and West Indies.

Pant, who had surgery on his knee, has shown that he is ready to bat and keep. Michael Clarke gave him a thumbs-up recently, saying he wants to see Pant back in Indian colors. 

“Yeah look it’s great for Indian cricket, but it’s also great for Rishabh Pant. I think the work that has gone into his rehab to get back to that level of play at any standard is an amazing achievement. He deserves a lot of credit for his hard work and it’s great to see him on the field, captaining and playing well, batting and keeping,” the former Australia captain told Star Sports.

He went on to add: “He’s a wonderful player and everybody is happy that he’s back on the field and we want to see him play for Delhi, but we also want to see him come back and play for India as soon as possible.”

Sourav Ganguly, a former India captain who has attended many selection committee meetings as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), recently said Pant has regained full fitness and would wait for a few more IPL games before he can voice view on his international selection. Pant’s scores in the IPL so far have been 18, 28, 51, 55 and 1.

“Let a few more matches go. He is doing very well, as you all must have seen, keeping batting. So he’s held up well and his form has been fantastic, especially the way he has batted in the last two games. So let another week go and I’ll be able to answer that question, provided the selectors want to pick him. So that’s most important. Yeah, yeah, he’s fully fit,” Ganguly said the other day.

Pant (26) has managed 153 runs in five games, failing only in the most recent game – versus Mumbai Indians. Pant has competition from the likes of Sanju Samson, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, and Jitesh Sharma, who are likely to be vying for the second keeper’s position in the Indian team.

Barring Pant, Virat Kohli certain

Meanwhile, it is almost certain that Virat Kohli will be in the squad. With more than 300 runs (316) in five matches, including a century, he is the highest scorer of the league so far and there is no way he is going to be left out, despite some conversation to the contrary about his strike rate.

The dilemma before the selectors is how to accommodate Shubman Gill. With Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal set for the openers’ role, followed by Kohli at No. 3, there are informal deliberations on whether he can be picked. 

The same can be said about Yuzvendra Chahal too. The Rajasthan Royals leg-spinner is top of the Indian bowlers’ list in terms of wickets but he faces competition from Kuldeep Yadav (who is currently out of action) and Axar Patel, who brings batting skills to the table. Suryakumar Yadav and Rinku Singh will be there just as the pacers Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Siraj. Arshdeep Singh too is in the fray.

The other dilemma before the selectors is about Mayank Yadav, who has stormed into the scene with 150-plus thunderbolts regularly. He is lying low currently due to side strain but he is definitely being watched by the think-tank.

Mayank (21) has captured the collective imagination of the cricket fraternity in the country with his pace. Having bowled at 156.7 mph, he has created the perception that he could be the next pace bowling sensation in the country. Whether the pacer will be picked for the World Cup has not been decided yet.

The decision-makers are believed to be treading a cautious path. The Indian team’s brain trust, including the selectors and team management, wants to observe his fitness, game sense, consistency, and, of course, accuracy before deciding on him. 

There is certainly a temptation to select him, but they are not sure whether he is ready for international cricket as yet. If there were to be a small bilateral series before the World Cup, Mayank Yadav would certainly have been picked.

The team selection is expected to be done in the first week of May.

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