India vs England: Rishabh Pant can be match-winner in T20s too, says VVS Laxman


Young wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant was one of the stars of India’s back-to-back series wins over Australia and England. After guiding India to a 2-1 series win over Australia away from home, Pant ended up as the second-highest run-getter in the recently-concluded four-match series against England. 

The Delhi stumper managed 270 runs in four Tests including a sensational century in the fourth and final Test to script a 3-1 win over England as India booked their berth in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final. Now Virat Kohli’s side will shift their focus to T20 cricket as the five-match series against England begins in Ahmedabad on Friday (March 12). 

Former India batsman VVS Laxman believes Pant can be a match-winner in T20 format as well. Pant, who averages 45.26 after 20 Tests has a modest average of only 20.5 with only two half-centuries till date in 20 T20Is. 

“In this situation, it could just strengthen the finishers in the Indian team because over the last one and one and half years, we are overly dependent on Hardik Pandya and (Ravindra) Jadeja when he comes at No. 7, but he plays cameos. But if there is one batsman in the Indian batting line-up who from the first ball can play those shots is Hardik Pandya,” Laxman said on Star Sports show ‘Game Plan’. 

“Rishabh Pant with the kind of form and maturity – it’s not only about the form but the maturity with which he’s batted in Test matches, I think he will be a matchwinner. We have seen him play under pressure for Delhi Capitals and win matches.  

“As a left-hand batsman, he gives that option where the opposition captain can feel the heat once he gets going. I think he is a great addition and I hope they don’t judge him by one or two innings because if you’re keeping in mind the World Cup, it can be a long rope. Once he has the security, we know that he can win matches just by himself,” Laxman said about Pant. 

The T20 World Cup is scheduled to take place in India in the months of October-November later this year. Laxman also felt that Mumbai batsman Suryakumar Yadav deserved a place in the Indian side based on his performances in recent years. 

Yadav managed 480 runs in 16 games in IPL 2020 with a strike-rate of 145 and four half-centuries. “He deserves it, I think he is a great role model for youngsters, especially in India because they lose patience very quickly. There is so much of quality, so much of talent and so much of competition, but what did Suryakumar do? He goes back to first class cricket, scores runs for Mumbai, whenever he gets an opportunity for Mumbai Indians – he is a positive run-getter, plays in tough situations and wins the match and that’s what you expect from a player,” former Hyderabad batsman Laxman said about Suryakumar Yadav. 

“Ultimately there is a saying which my coach taught me early on, ‘If the selectors are not opening the door, break open the door’, the only way you can do that is by your performance —  we’re not sure if he will get to play in the playing XI but he definitely deserves a spot in the squad of that T20 Indian team,” Laxman added.

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Sagar Biswas

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