Like a few other ones, India’s decision to go with Rishabh Pant in the semi-final against England after portraying Dinesh Karthik as the first-choice wicketkeeper-batter in the entire tournament and also in the lead-up to it was a surprising one. But when captain Rohit Sharma cited the Adelaide Oval’s short square boundaries and the presence of leg-spinners in the opposition rank as the reasons behind the decision, one was ready to give it the benefit of doubt.
After all this, Rishabh Pant batted just four balls coming into the crease in the 19th over and had to sacrifice his wicket in the last over to let the in-form Hardik Panda attempt to hit sixes in the remaining deliveries. In hindsight, Hardik Pandya’s elevation ahead of Pant turned out to be a masterstroke. After all, it was because of his 33-ball 63 that India managed to put up a somewhat respectable total of 168 on the board.
Hardik, however, was 13 off 15 at one stage, struggling to find the big stage. If at that point, he had gotten out then the decision to send him ahead of Pant, a left-hander, when two England leg-spinners were bowling, would have been the most debatable one. It still is, as pointed out by former India captain and head coach Anil Kumble after England chased down the target in 16 overs with all 10 wickets in hand.
“One is of course having that brand of cricket and then choosing the players to do that but I think it’s also important that these players play their specific roles wherever they play. Because it’s not about just playing that role for India and then going back to your domestic cricket and franchise cricket and then changing the way you’re going to go about it. Because, for example, Pant today batted for India at No. 6, he walked in in the 19th over. He never does that in domestic cricket. So you need some kind of role definition as well there and that’s something I think is very critical if you’re going to build a potent team where you need a backup for those roles and not necessarily your six best players whatever role they can. It’s very difficult to do that in a World Cup,” Kumble said on ESPNCricinfo.
Former Australia all-rounder and one of the most renowned cricket coaches in the world, Tom Moody, also shared the same thoughts.
“Just to build on that a little bit, the example you have there of Pant coming in the 19th over. That’s everything that went wrong with India’s pursuit of a total. Because how could you have a resource like that left and have the total they’ve got? If he’s coming in the 19th over, you’d expect the score to be 180 or 190. But having that as a wasted resource is purely because of the brand that was demonstrated for 70% of the innings. In my opinion, 60 or 70% of that innings was not the modern brand that is going to be good enough to win the T20 World Cup,” he said.