Kotak: Accidentally captain Rishabh Pant is anticipating an improved showing from India’s bowlers as he plots a comeback against aggressive South Africa in the second T20 of his five-match series here on Sunday.
Leading India for the first time ever, Pant had to swallow a bitter pill when David Miller and Rassi van der Dousen knocked down a majestic 212 with the utmost carelessness to go up 1-0 in the series.
Southern Bau also had the Indian Premier League forgotten as it failed to lead the Delhi Capitals to the playoffs.
Seen as a future white ball captain, Pant’s stakes fell abruptly after the IPL and this coincided with the return of Hardik Pandya.
Returning to his full fitness, the multi-tiered bowler captured the Premier League not only by his form but also by reversal when he led the Gujarat Titans to the title in their first debut season.
Amid the growing chorus of ‘Hardik Pandya – India’s next white ball captain’, Pant will come under scrutiny once again as he masterminds a comeback.
It may still be early days for the Captain’s pant, but his body language never stood out and he seemed under pressure on his first appearance with the Captain.
He also made the controversial decision to disqualify IPL Purple Cap winner Yozvendra Chahal, after taking 27 wickets for runner-up to the Rajasthan Royals. In Kotla, Leggie only threw two overs.
As for Pandya, refreshed after his historic success with GT, he continued where he left off in the IPL.
Pandya, who last played for India in November last year in the 2021 T20 World Cup, wowed the racket with 31 not out of 12 balls to support the past 200 total.
But it failed to impact the bowl and only leaked 18 times at the end of it.
Pant’s biggest headache will be the bowling department where he will have to make a call between Arshdeep Singh and speed rifle Umran Malik.
While the batting looks perfect, the new shape section looked flat in the series opening.
Seniormost Bhuvneshwar Kumar did not look alike and was leaked on fatalities, while Harshal Patel was also passed on to cleaners.
Young Avish Khan also failed to impress him even though he was the most economical of the trio.
With the duo of Arshdeep and Malik trying hard to impress the nets with speed and accuracy, it is likely one of them will be ready well for their debut on Saturday.
It won’t be an easy task as any further misstep will mean the team led by Pant will face the difficult task of winning three in a row.
After the success of their singles players in the IPL, the Proteas find themselves at “home”.
In his life form, Miller who scored 481 points in 68.71 in the IPL to play a key role in the GT victory, he started in ominous fashion and looked unstoppable against the spin and speed of Kotla.
Quinton de Kock failed to convert his start but batsman Lucknow Super Giants also scored a bag full of runs (508) in the IPL and was looking to make it important here.
With van der Dusen also winning riches, the trio will form the backbone of the hitter, while the likes of Kajisu Rabada and Enrich Norte will be looking to stop the Indians.
India: Rishabh Pant (c & wk), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar Malik, Harshal Umar, Patel Imran .
South Africa: Temba Pavuma (centre), Quinton de Kock (week), Risa Hendricks, Heinrich Claassen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrish Norte, Wayne Parnell, Dwayne Pretorius, Cajesu Rabada, Tabriz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs, Rase van der Dousen, Marco Janssen.
The match starts at 7 PM IST.
Get the latest updates about cricket news, cricket pictures, cricket videos and cricket scores here