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‘Tendulkar’s first ODI century came when…’: Ex-India coach gives ‘out-of-the-box’ idea for struggling Rishabh Pant

The fifth and final T20I of the series between India and South Africa was washed out, with the series ending in a 2-2 draw. While there are many positives for India in the series including the impressive comebacks of all-rounder Hardik Pandya and senior batter Dinesh Karthik, there was one major concern for the side – the form of captain Rishabh Pant. While the wicketkeeper-batter impressed with his leadership skills, specifically in the third and fourth T20Is, his performances with the bat left a lot to be desired.

Also read: ‘It is for you guys to decide how I am doing’: Rishabh Pant’s blunt response on his performance as batter, captain

Pant scored only 57 runs in four matches and in three of them, he was dismissed chasing the deliveries wide outside the off-stump. Many former cricketers were critical of the young wicketkeeper-batter’s batting performance, but India’s former batting coach Sanjay Bangar has provided a potential solution to Pant’s problems.

Talking on Star Sports ahead of the fifth T20I, Bangar drew Pant’s parallels to India’s batting great Sachin Tendulkar, insisting that the former cricketer’s first century in white-ball cricket came when he opened the innings for India.

“I’ve been thinking about it for 3 years. If you look at Sachin Tendulkar’s career, he hit his first century in his 75th or 76th innings when he was asked to open the innings against New Zealand after batting largely in the middle-order. Right now, the Indian team is looking at a left-right combination. Yes, Ishan Kishan is doing good right now, but if the Indian team is eyeing a left-right opening pair for the long term, Rishabh Pant can do the same job that someone like Adam Gilchrist did for Australia,” Bangar said.

Former India bowler Irfan Pathan, who was also a part of the conversation, insisted that Pant could be tried in the Powerplay because the bowlers attempt to bowl in the stump line during the first six overs, thanks to the ruling of only two players outside the 30-yard circle.

“We’re talking about off-side (problem) for a long time now. But when does it happen? When the field opens up. Can we use Rishabh Pant in the powerplay where the bowlers can’t give enough width? Yes, there will be challenge because the ball will swing early on, but then, Rishabh Pant is a quality batter. He has scored nearly 3,500 international runs in his short career. So, I’m thinking along those lines. It may not be right now, but maybe in the future,” Pathan said.

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