A lot of talk heading into India’s LOI series against New Zealand was who would be the wicketkeeper for India. With the first T20I at Auckland just completing with India winning convincingly by six wickets, the focus again shifted back to India’s latest experiment- of having KL Rahul keep wickets instead of the prodigal Rishabh Pant or the classy, flamboyant Sanju Samson who are both regular, front-line wicketkeepers and are part of the 15-member squad now for the T20Is against the Kiwis.
India tried out this experiment in the last two ODIs against Australia recently and it yielded extremely positive results as the Kings XI Punjab skipper KL Rahul who keeps wickets in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and for his state side Karnataka, donned the gloves for India with ease and didn’t miss many chances. Plus his batting is on the upswing in recent times, so Kohli’s strategy to have Rahul keep wickets to bring in a better balance to the team seems to be working for the time being.
During the post-match press conference, KL Rahul was asked about Rishabh Pant’s inclusion in the playing XI. To which, Rahul said, “It’s not up to me.”
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KL Rahul is not sure what to make of this question 🤨 #NZvIND pic.twitter.com/UpSVHUTpb8
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 24, 2020
Rahul lost his opening partner, Rohit Sharma, early in the chase but fed of serial “energiser bunny” Virat Kohli to give India’s chase the early impetus. The right-hander has been in breathtaking form and with his new ‘keeping role, his value to the side has grown by leaps.
That security blanket reflects in his decision making in the middle. There were no half measures as he began his knock by hitting two boundaries off Mitchell Santner. The highlight of his early assault though was a short-arm pick-up shot off Tim Southee that sailed over the cow corner fence. Rahul’s onslaught allowed India to hit 65 in the PowerPlay – matching the asking rate for a 204 chase.
Looking at how well he is batting, and the guidance he is able to give to players like Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey, it certainly looks like Rishabh Pant has lost his opportunity to represent India for the ICC World T20 later on in the year. If in the eventuality of Pandey or Dube not performing, probably the selectors might decide to give the Kerala batsman Sanju Samson a fair opportunity rather than trying out Pant who has been given a lot of opportunities in the past in both T20Is and ODIs only to botch it up.
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