“Trying To Give Him A Free Hand”: Former India Spinner On Rishabh Pant Playing As Opener

In a surprise move, Rishabh Pant was sent out to open the batting for India in their second T20 International (T20I) against England at Edgbaston on Saturday. The swashbuckling left-hander is yet to truly establish his place in India’s T20I side, but has played in the middle order for most of his senior career and this was the first time he opened in the format for India. Pant helped give India a strong start, scoring 26 off 15 deliveries. Former India spinner Piyush Chawla feels that the move was a way of giving Pant “a free hand” to play his aggressive brand of cricket.

“Maybe just trying to give him that free hand because we’ve seen that in the last few games in white-ball cricket, he didn’t get too many runs. Although he was brilliant in red-ball, but he needs to get that form going in white-ball cricket,” Chawla said on ESPNcricinfo.

“That could be the reason because when you go and open the innings and if the first ball is in his arc, he is ready to go for it when the field is up. So I think that kind of role they have given to Rishabh Pant – ‘go and express yourself’. That’s what his game is all about. With fielders inside the ring, it becomes a little free hand for him. So that could be the reason they sent Rishabh Pant to open the innings,” he explained.

He said, however, that it is unlikely that Pant will continue as an opener once KL Rahul returns to the team.

“The kind of record KL Rahul has, especially in T20 cricket while opening, I don’t see that as a regular spot (for Pant), but it’s something they wanted to try. And we’ve seen a couple of statements earlier from senior players and ex-cricketers that he can do the role which Gilchrist has done for the Australian team. But KL Rahul is a class act. So once he comes back into the side, I don’t think Rishabh Pant fits into that spot,” Chawla said.

Pant also went on to open in the third and final T20I against England. However, he failed to make an impact as he was dismissed for 1 off 5 deliveries as India chased 216.

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India eventually lost the match by 17 runs despite Suryakumar Yadav‘s magnificent century.

The right-hander smashed 117 off just 55 deliveries, but had little support as India failed to complete a series whitewash.

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