'Even though he hasn't done it much, he...': SL legend backs Pant as India opener for T20 WC amid KL Rahul fitness issue
With fitness being an issue for Rahul, another left-hander, Rishabh Pant has been backed to open for India in the T20 World Cup, by a Sri Lanka legend
The opening slot has been one of the most experimented position in the batting line-up in T20Is for India since the 2021 World Cup. As many as 11 batters, including captain Rohit Sharma, has been featured in the position with Ishan Kishan making the most appearances and scoring the most runs. But with KL Rahul being declared fit earlier this week, he has been slotted into the Asia Cup squad ahead of the left-handed batter as India's opener. But with fitness being an issue for Rahul, another left-hander, Rishabh Pant has been backed to open for India in the T20 World Cup, by Sri Lanka legend Mahela Jayawardene.
Rahul is yet to make an appearance for India since IPL 2022. Having struggled with injury concerns, Rahul is slated to make his first appearance in the impending three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe before travelling to the UAE for the Asia Cup.
However, Jayawardene, who has strongly supported a left-handed option at the top of the order and has valued the importance of having a strong left-hand, right-hand combination, has backed Pant to open for India in the T20 World Cup if Rahul fails to find form in Asia Cup.
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"Even though he (Pant) hasn’t done that (open the batting) much in domestic cricket, he has the capacity to do that," Jayawardena told Sanjana Ganesan on the latest episode of The ICC Review. "Wherever he bats, you’re not going to change his game. He is going to be a very natural player so yes, it is an option (for Pant to open)."
Pant has so far opened for India only twice for India in T20I cricket, in the series against England last month. He scored 26 runs in 20 balls across the two innings, laced with a six and four boundaries.
This isn't the first time Pant has been touted to open for India in white-ball format. Veterans and experts in recent past have suggested selectors and team management to ponder over the option and make the most of his aggressive batting in the presence of fielding restrictions.