There is no denying that Rishabh Pant is a talented batter, and on his day he can be swashbuckling and win matches by himself. And yet, with just 741 runs scored at an average of 23.63 and a meagre strike rate of 123.91, he has failed to notch onto the international stage.

A promise which has so far kept him in the team is his handy wicketkeeping. With KL Rahul as a backup, Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson in and out of the team; Pant’s specialist keeping skills have ensured he plays regularly for Team India. 

Now with Dinesh Karthik making a strong comeback to the Indian cricket team in a defined finisher role, there’s extra pressure on Pant. There is only one position left in a full-strength India batting line-up for Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan to compete for. That is if we imagine the highly probable scenario of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli being untouchable and with KL Rahul the first man to walk into an India T20 batting line-up. It is difficult to picture one of them forcing Karthik out of position and playing out of position under this team management, which values role clarity.

‘He hasn’t learned’

It is undeniable that Pant has recently struggled because of the wide line, losing his wicket multiple times to the same tactic in the South Africa series. Pant has mishandled wide deliveries 10 times in 19 T20 innings this season. It was "not a good sign," said former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, who was commentating on the fourth T20I, because Pant kept falling into the same trap. "He hasn't learned," Gavaskar said on Star Sports. "He hasn't learned from his previous three dismissals. They throw wide, and he keeps going for it. He has got to stop looking to go aerial that far outside the off-stump. There is no way he's going to get enough on it.”

Pant obviously did not perform well in the international series against South Africa, but the team's management will not act hastily. Additional advantage for Pant is that he bats left-handed, which greatly benefits him if India decides to field Rohit, Rahul, and Kohli as its top three.

However, there remains an option of dropping Pant if his struggles continue and let Suryakumar Yadav come in as a floater in the middle overs. Or if the left-handed batting approach is too necessary then Ishan Kishan can open the innings with KL Rahul as the floater. Both of these are viable options.

The decision is difficult and onerous for captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid, but if Kohli and Rohit are both certain starters, Pant and Suryakumar will probably be vying for the last position in the batting order. It will be cruel on one of them to sit out, but India will be delighted they have identified a specialised finisher in DK, and will not have to push one of their middle-overs enforcers into a death-overs position.

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