Indian wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant made a start against Zimbabwe after sitting on the bench for the first four games in the Super 12 round. In India’s final group game at the T20 World Cup 2022, Pant made his debut appearance for the Rohit Sharma-led team, taking the place of seasoned wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik.

The decision to replace Karthik with Pant in the Indian playing XI for their Super 12 match against Zimbabwe was previously justified by India’s all-format skipper Rohit. In advance of its final match of the T20 World Cup’s Super 12 stage, India had already qualified for the semifinals.

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In response to a question regarding Pant’s inclusion back in the Indian playing XI prior to the World Cup semi-finals, Team India captain Rohit spoke at the customary pre-match news conference on Wednesday.

“Between Pant and DK, I said it before the last game, as well, Rishabh was the only guy who didn’t get to play on this tour at all except the two games that we played in Perth. That was an unofficial practice game. But since then he hasn’t had a hit, and he was the only guy who was missing some game time, so we wanted to give him some time and have some options, as well, whether if we want to make changes in the semis or the finals, we should be able to do that,” Rohit said. 

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“It would be unfair to just bring the guy from nowhere and make him play the game, so that was the thought. But again, at the same time we’ve told the guys right from the beginning that everyone needs to be ready for whichever game that they have to play, whether it’s semis, final, lead games. They’ve got to be ready for it,” Rohit added.

Against Zimbabwe, Pant struggled with the willow and was dismissed for 3 runs off of 5 balls. India’s 71-run victory over Craig Ervine-led Zimbabwe gave them first place in Group 2 of the T20 World Cup. On Thursday, India will play Jos Buttler’s England in the second T20 World Cup semifinal. Indian captain Rohit claimed that both Pant and Karthik are competing to be India’s wicketkeeper at Adelaide Oval.

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“But yeah, it was a little tactical, as well, considering we were not knowing which team we would be playing in the semis before that Zimbabwe game, so we wanted to just give a left-hander an opportunity to counter some of the spinners who bowled in the middle for New Zealand and England. That was the thought, and we thought Rishabh was the guy for us to go and give him some time, as well. But again, what is going to happen tomorrow, I think I won’t be able to tell you right now, but both of the keepers will be in play for sure,” the 35-year-old Indian skipper concluded.

Presented with the choice between DK and Pant, former South Africa batter AB de Villiers said, “Difficult one. For me, absolutely no doubt, DK should be there. Knock-out stages, he’s experienced, I would want him. But, here’s the curveball, I would want Pant in the team as well. I would find another spot for him. I don’t know who makes way for him.”

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The former Proteas player also makes reference to Deepak Hooda and Hardik Pandya’s collective performance for India against South Africa, indicating that Hooda might be replaced by Pant. Axar Patel, however, took the batter’s place in India’s subsequent two matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Rishabh Pant has hit centuries in Test cricket for Australia, according to de Villiers, and India needs his potency in the middle order.

“Pant has got Test hundreds in Australia before, he’s got the experience, and the confidence to take the game away from any bowling attack. He can face fast bowling and spin. He’s versatile, I will make room for both of these guys. You need DK’s experience and you need Pant’s match-winning abilities. That’s my five cents,” he added.