Moody feels Pant ahead in keepers’ race for T20 WC squad; Srikkanth picks Rahul over Samson as reserve keeper

New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) Tom Moody, the former Australia cricketer, thinks Rishabh Pant is ahead of other candidates in the race for the wicketkeeper-batter slots in India’s squad for the Men’s T20 World Cup.

The Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee is expected to select India’s 15-member squad by the end of this month for the mega event, to be held in the USA and West Indies from June 1. Pant made his return to competitive cricket last month through IPL 2024 after almost 15 months due to a life-threatening car crash.

Pant has so far scored 342 runs in nine innings of IPL 2024 for Delhi Capitals at an average of 48.86 and strike rate of 161.32. He has mainly batted in the middle order and slammed three half-centuries, the latest of which was an unbeaten 88 against Gujarat Titans on Wednesday. Pant has kept wickets in all of DC’s matches, taking ten catches and effecting three stumpings.

“The way I look at it and what we have seen so far, more so from a fitness perspective, for me, Rishabh Pant has put himself right in front of the queue. It’s great that he’s back playing; is fit and feeling good, which is the most important thing.”

“It’s great that he ticked that box from what I have seen so far; he’s moving very, very well halfway through the tournament. The second part is form – behind the stumps, he’s slick and his hands are smooth. He’s been moving gracefully. With the bat in hand, he’s shown us that he’s back,” said Moody while replying to an IANS query on Star Sports Press Room Show’s ‘Ticket to World Cup’ episode.

Moody further felt that Pant’s big-match temperament will come in handy in the World Cup while adding that K.L Rahul lends more flexibility as a reserve keeper-batter ahead of Sanju Samson. While Rahul has mainly batted as an opener in IPL 2024 and amassed 302 runs in eight games, Samson has amassed 314 runs in as many games as a top-order batter.

“What I like about Pant is that historically, he gets going in big games. He’s a big game player and I like that going into the World Cup because if my side is four down for 60, I have got someone who’s historical record and a temperament who can navigate in that situation and get me a competitive score to get out of jail on a game which was sort of on the edge.”

“For me, he’s there at number one, and regarding second ‘keeper, it’s a discussion between Sanju Samson and KL Rahul. I like both of them because they also back up as a reserve top-order batter. K.L. is a little bit flexible and can move both up and down the order, so he can bat anywhere from one to five. He’s shown that more so in 50-over cricket, than in T20s, but he’s shown the capabilities to play in a different way coming in at a different entry point.”

Krishnamachari Srikkanth, the former India cricketer and ex-chief selector, agreed that Pant is the front-runner as India’s wicketkeeper-batter for the T20 World Cup, and opined that Rahul should be picked as the reserve keeper ahead of Samson.

“Everybody knows the contest is between Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson and KL Rahul. Unfortunately for Sanju, who’s done very well, he hasn’t got a continuous run in T20Is and his record there is not deadly on that front, which is number one. Number two is Sanju can bat only at number three and max, number four.”

“Whereas number three and four slots are already fixed. It’s a no-brainer (Shivam) Dube has to be at number four because he can terrorise the bowlers and opposition. He started to work on countering short balls and is now playing them very well. So when Suryakumar (Yadav) is at three and Dube is at four, and surely Rishabh Pant is at number five, Sanju, unfortunately, misses out.”

“To answer if K.L Rahul should be the reserve wicketkeeper who can bat either as an opener or middle-order batter, yes and it’s for a very simple reason that he’s got a very good track record. You see his T20I record, he’s got hundreds across the globe and has a big-match temperament. So, he will be my reserve wicketkeeper-cum-reserve opener/batter.”

While addressing a pre-match press conference ahead of DC’s IPL match against Mumbai Indians on Saturday afternoon, Sourav Ganguly, the former India skipper serving as the director of cricket in the Delhi-based franchise, backed Pant and Samson to be in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup.

“I love Sanju Samson; I love Rishabh Pant. Rishabh will go (to the T20 World Cup). Sanju might also go. I’m not saying Sanju should not go. He’s as good a player as anybody. He bats and keeps; he’s captained Rajasthan superbly. Both can go for T20 WC if selectors feel; but Rishabh will go as he’s back fully.”



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