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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Rishabh Pant in line to make comeback for India's T20 series against Black Caps

Middle-order batsman was rested for India's ODI series victories in Australia and New Zealand

Middle-order batsman Rishabh Pant will likely be picked to play his 11th Twenty20 international for India on Wednesday. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images
Middle-order batsman Rishabh Pant will likely be picked to play his 11th Twenty20 international for India on Wednesday. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

Rishabh Pant is expected to play his first international match on Wednesday since the conclusion of India's Test tour of Australia last month.

Pant was rested for India's back-to-back one-day international triumphs in Australia and New Zealand following their historic Test series victory down under in which the wicketkeeper-batsman finished second in the run-scoring chart behind teammate Cheteshwar Pujara.

The 21-year-old middle-order batsman will likely get a chance to bat at No 4 when the men in blue take on New Zealand in the first of three Twenty20 matches at Wellington. Pant, though, is unlikely to be on keeping duty due to former captain MS Dhoni's presence in the XI.

The left-hander, considered a potential understudy to Dhoni, 37, has represented his country in nine Tests, three ODIs and 10 T20 internationals. But it is his batting that looks most promising, and opener Shikhar Dhawan said as much on Tuesday.

“He is an aggressive batsman – an asset for the team," Dhawan said of his Delhi teammate. "He can take away games from the opposition in a very short time. I hope he grabs this opportunity with both hands."

Dhawan also hinted that Pant's fresh legs would be useful to the team's chances of winning the series.

“We, too, are humans and our bodies need a bit of rest," the 33-year-old left-hander said. "Of course, we would be looking to the win the series and carry the momentum back home for the Australia series."

India host Australia in five ODIs in March.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar had earlier called for Pant to be picked in the ODI side more regularly, starting with the Australia series, with a view to the Cricket World Cup, which gets under way in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.

“That will give us a fair idea about how the young kid is shaping up,” Gavaskar, an influential figure in Indian cricket, told Star Sports after India’s 35-run victory over New Zealand in the fifth and final ODI at Wellington on Sunday.

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"Give him a little more responsibility at, say No 4 or 5, because at 6 or 7 he just going to blast it [the ball] around, and that is not what you want to see.

“What we want to see is maybe something like what happened today – three wickets down with not too many, and then he comes in and looks to play the ones and the twos, settle down and then hit the big shots to score 70 or 80 or even a hundred," the former opener said referring to India's recovery from 18-4 to post a match-winning total of 252.

Gavaskar also pointed out that a “left-handed option in the middle order is very crucial”, while adding Dinesh Karthik – the other wicketkeeper-batsman in the squad – should be tried as a back-up opening batsman to Dhawan and stand-in captain Rohit Sharma.

The second T20 is scheduled for Friday in Auckland and the third on Sunday in Hamilton. India are No 2 in the International Cricket Council's T20 rankings, while New Zealand are sixth.

Updated: February 5, 2019 07:41 PM

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