Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting say Rishabh Pant should be in India’s T20 World Cup squad

“Yes, I think so, Pant should be part of the World Cup squad,” Ganguly said at a media round table in New Delhi on Monday. “He should bat in the middle-order. Where exactly is difficult to say because of match-ups, right-left combinations depending on who bowls. It also depends on the situation.”

Ponting believes Pant had been a little apprehensive early in the season on what he could do, especially with his wicketkeeping but he has “seemingly gotten better and better every game.”

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“He’s starting to get a bit more trust and belief in his body as well,” Ponting said. “I think early on he had been a little bit apprehensive as to what he could do, especially with the wicketkeeping side of it. With his batting, coming into the tournament, he had pretty good trust in his abilities.

“I think his batting is getting better and better by the game. I’ve been asked a lot already over the last couple of weeks now that he’s back and playing what I think about his World Cup chances. I think he’ll be in the squad for sure. I think he’s too good of a player and can have too much of an impact on the game. He’s the heartbeat and soul [of Delhi Capitals] and hopefully from here on, he can help us win some more games.”

Pant, who made his return to competitive cricket after a 15-month layoff due to a car crash, has so far hit 254 runs in eight innings at 150.29. This includes two half-centuries. He has predominantly batted in the middle order and has kept wickets in every single game, something the support staff seemed a little doubtful about at the start of the season. He’s likely to compete with Sanju Samson, KL Rahul and Jitesh Sharma for the spot.

On Saturday, Dinesh Karthik threw his hat into the ring on the back of some exceptional performances at IPL 2024, where he’s played the role of a finisher for Royal Challengers Bengaluru.

Want Rohit and Kohli to hit from ball one at the T20WC, says Ganguly

Pant aside, the other big question the Indian selectors will face is the opening combination. It’s clear Rohit Sharma, who was named captain as early as February by board secretary Jay Shah at an event, will open. But there’s been plenty of debate around who should partner him.

Yashasvi Jaiswal is the incumbent, but he has endured a slightly lean run of form at IPL 2024, having managed to score just 121 runs in seven innings. While Ganguly doesn’t believe his chances have diminished, he’s clear the experience of handling pressure in crunch moments will be crucial, and India needed the experience of Rohit and Virat Kohli at the top of the order.

Ganguly hoped India could channel a similar approach to the one Rohit adopted at the 50-over World Cup and just go big from the first ball.

“They have the talent to do that,” Ganguly said. “We saw how Rohit batted at the 50-overs World Cup. He just came and hit from ball one and we were able to put so much pressure on the opposition in the first seven-eight overs. It gave breathing space for the lower order.

“I think Virat and Rohit should do the same. They’re great players. For India, the most important thing in T20 cricket and I said this to Rahul [Dravid] in Australia [after the previous T20 World Cup] also. ‘Just play without fear.’ You can always control the innings if you lose wickets, but just go and hit.”

Ganguly was asked about Rahul and how he’d been an example of someone with enormous ability but had often come under scrutiny because of his approach to T20 cricket.

“I think I think it depends on what the captain and the coach instruct him to do in the middle,” Ganguly said. “The other day I saw him play an innings against Chennai [Super Kings], which Lucknow [Super Giants] won. I thought he was exceptional. He played well at the top of the order and did exactly that was required to do.

“As I said, it’s about playing freely and playing without fear. And I hope Rahul finds a method of playing T20 cricket. Because players like Virat, Rohit, Rishabh, Rahul, Surya [Suryakymar Yadav], Shivam Dube – there’s exceptional six-hitting ability, it’s enormous.”

The Impact Player has been among the bigger talking points this IPL. Ganguly was asked if it was detrimental to the development of allrounders.

“A little bit, but good allrounders still play,” he said. “Hardik Pandya is still playing. You look at. Rashid [Khan] he’s playing in the XII straightaway. Glenn Maxwell, yes he’s taken a bit of a break but he starts. Mitch Marsh started for us, although he did’t get enough runs. Jadeja plays for Chennai, Nitish Reddy place for Hyderabad. Russell and Narine play for KKR.”

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