Team India’s stylish wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant opened in the third and final T20I of the series against South Africa on Tuesday. This is not the first time Pant has opened in international T20s, though – the 25-year-old wicketkeeper-batter had first opened in the format in July earlier this year, when India toured England for a rescheduled Test, three ODIs and as many T20Is. Pant opened in two matches of the T20I series, registering scores of 26 and 1.
On Tuesday night, Pant opened with Rohit Sharma in the absence of KL Rahul, who was given rest for the Indore T20I. Pant began his innings with relative calm but went berserk in Lungi Ngidi’s first over, smashing 20 off the first five deliveries. However, on the final ball, he endured a rather soft-dismissal as Pant was caught at cover. Pant did score 27 off 13 deliveries but India eventually lost the game by 49 runs.
Interestingly, Pant is not the only wicketkeeper who has opened in T20Is. Mohammad Rizwan is a designated opener for the Pakistan limited-overs side and has produced supremely consistent performances for the side in T20Is of late. When talked about in broader terms, however, one name that comes to mind almost immediately during conversations about wicketkeeper-openers is that of Adam Gilchrist.
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Australia’s star left-handed batter is widely regarded as one of the legends of the game. He represented 96 Tests, 287 ODIs, and 13 T20Is, and lifted the ODI World Cup thrice. His prime years as both, wicketkeeper and batter came under the coaching of John Buchanan, the legendary former Australia coach who led the side to three-successive World Cup titles. Naturally, Buchanan has seen Gilchrist closely for many years. And so, Hindustan Times asked Buchanan whether he sees India’s Rishabh Pant growing into the batting role that Gilchrist made his own for many years.
“Quite possibly,” Buchanan says.
When asked whether Pant can replicate what Gilchrist did as an opener, Buchanan said, “First of all, does he (Pant) want to do it (play as an opener)? If he wants to, and there’s a position for it, he could be a very logical choice to open the batting. He certainly takes on the game from the word go. If he continues to play like this in T20 cricket, and continues to succeed, it would really give a wonderful platform for the rest of the innings.”
Buchanan, however, also insisted that India already have a set opening combination in Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul at present, and an option for Pant to open the innings on a more regular basis can be explored after one of the two first-choice openers depart from the role.
Since making his international debut in 2017, Pant has largely played the role of a middle/lower-middle order batter for Team India. Pant is also a part of India’s T20 World Cup squad.