IND vs SA T20I series a litmus test for Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik ahead of T20 World Cup

Team India’s T20I series against South Africa is their last chance to fine-tune the squad and test combinations ahead of the T20 World Cup 2022, which is scheduled to begin from 16 October. With Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar rested, the likes of Rishabh Pant and others are in contention to play in what is the final run of games heading into the month-long T20 spectacle in Australia.

India skipper Rohit Sharma will have to nurse a selection headache for the T20I series against the Proteas considering that this is also the last chance for some players to get some match time before the much-awaited T20 World Cup.

Last chance for Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik to make a convincing case

Both Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant are part of India’s T20 World Cup squad and with both of them playing the same role of wicketkeeper-batter, it is highly probable that only one between the two will be picked in the playing XI for the marquee event.

Hence, the big question which still haunts the Team India management is – Pant or Karthik? Which player is suitable for their lineup?

Karthik and Pant have not got enough game time ahead of the T20 World Cup and the same was acknowledged by pack leader Rohit Sharma after the recently-concluded T20I series against Australia.

“It depends on the situation. I obviously wanted these guys to have a number of games under their belt before the World Cup. When we went to the Asia Cup, both these guys were in the fray to play all the games or whenever there is an opportunity or if there is a tactical matchup, we can bring in those guys. But I just feel that Dinesh needs a little more game time, so does Pant,” Rohit said during a press conference.

“Honestly speaking, Pant needs some game time as well. But looking at how this series was important for me to just stick to that consistent batting lineup,” said Sharma during the post-match press conference after India defeated Australia by six wickets in the third T20I here on Sunday to win the series 2-1.

Going by Rohit’s statement, it is likely that both Pant and Karthik will make it to the playing XI for the three-match T20I series against South Africa, which is scheduled to begin from 28 September.

Karthik to retain his place

Dinesh Karthik was picked for all three T20Is against Australia but did not get enough time to bat. He faced five balls in the first match at Mohali and scored six runs, while in the second T20I, he faced two balls and blasted a six and four to seal victory for India.

In the third match in Hyderabad, the 37-year-old from Tamil Nadu faced only 1 ball and remained not out with one run.

Hence, Karthik is all but certain to retain his place in India’s playing XI for the T20I series against South Africa, but it will be his performance in the series which will decide if he’s fit to feature in India’s playing XI in the T20 World Cup.

Rishabh likely to get game time in Hardik Pandya’s absence

Rishabh, who didn’t play a single match against Australia in the recently concluded T20I series, last featured in the Asia Cup 2022 against Hong Kong when Hardik was rested and the same could be the case once again. With star all-rounder rested for the South Africa T20I series, Pant can find his place back in the playing XI.

Moreover, Pant is considered as a floating batter by the management, which makes it easy for India’s think tank to bring him back into playing XI.

Last chance for Rishabh Pant?

With the T20I series against South Africa being considered a dress rehearsal for India ahead of the T20 World Cup 2022, it is more or less the last chance for Rishabh Pant to impress Rohit and management in order to cement his place in the XI.

With Karthik already being considered for the role of finisher, it is Pant who will have to put his hand up and present a strong case for the middle-order role.

India will take a call on whom to play depending on the situation: Rohit Sharma

“We have said that we want to be flexible in our batting, so if the situation or if the thing demands that we need a left-hander, we will bring in a left-hander, if we need a right-hand, we will continue to do that,” Rohit had said after the Australia series.

Going by the aforementioned statement, one can deduce that many other factors – opposition’s strength and weakness, ground size, pitch conditions, team’s combination, etc. will come into play when India’s management picks between Pant and Karthik in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

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