Former India batter Robin Uthappa feels that Rishabh Pant is shackled in the middle order and should be promoted in order to get the best out of him.
The Delhi-born wicketkeeper has been deployed largely in the middle order by Team India, with their top order being stacked.
The southpaw availed the chance to open the innings in a few select matches, but failed to make the most of it, leaving him on the sidelines, with Dinesh Karthik taking over the glovework.
Reflecting back on Pant’s early days with the Delhi Daredevils (now called Delhi Capitals), Uthappa said in an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda:
“Pant does not seem confident at No. 5 because he is not a finisher. I think that No. 4 and No. 5 are the toughest positions in T20 cricket, there is no time to settle, either your team is doing very well or in trouble. And I don’t think such a situation is ideal for Pant.”
“He’s scored tons of runs while batting in the top order for Delhi Daredevils ((now renamed to Delhi Capitals), that’s when we have seen him at his best.”
Pant has maintained a strike rate of 170 and 147 while batting at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The strike rate and average drop down as the batting position decreases.
Despite making his T20I debut in 2018, the young wicketkeeper is yet to thrive in the shortest format. While he has cemented his status as a pure match-winner in Test cricket, he is far from doing so in T20Is.
“You will see him becoming the same match-winner that we regularly see in Test matches” – Robin Uthappa
He was surprisingly demoted to No. 6 in the recently concluded T20 World Cup 2022 semi-final against England. The right-handed batters ahead of him had to face the wrath in the form of leg-spin bowling from Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone.
The batters failed to take advantage of the shorter square boundaries as Rashid finished with match-winning figures of 1-20 from his four overs.
Noting that Pant could do wonders for the side if he is given an extended run at the top of the order, Uthappa said:
“If he gets a chance to play where he thrives, then he will score a lot of runs, and you will see him becoming the same match-winner that we regularly see in Test matches. I think his position lies in the top order.”
Reiterating that Pant should only feature in the top three of the batting order, Uthappa added:
“If you see Rishabh Pant’s best T20 performances, those have only come in the top three. Now there is no place in the top four in the Indian team, where will he play?”
I think that going forward, he will be one of the most dangerous T20 batters for Team India that has played the game, but he should either open or play at No.3.”
Pant is likely to feature a lot more in T20I cricket moving forward with Karthik no longer in the scheme of things. He will next be seen on the upcoming tour of New Zealand, where he has been appointed as vice-captain in the absence of several senior members.
What is Rishabh Pant’s ideal position in the batting order? Let us know what you think.
Also Read: T20 World Cup 2022: “There was a game of musical chairs going on about whether to play Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant” – Kiran More on Team India’s wicketkeeper selection conundrum