Bengaluru: Virat Kohli’s familiar exuberance and pep talks drowned the chatter around Rishabh Pant as India prepared to play South Africa in the third T20 on Sunday, seeking a 2-0 series win.
The comprehensive seven-wicket victory in the second game, which was built on the back of a fine comeback by the bowlers and a Kohli masterclass, is history now and the team is looking for another commanding performance before the Test series gets under way. The opener in Dharamsala was a washout.
Against a fairly new-look South African side, India will surely fancy their chances of an encore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Embattled wicketkeeper-batsman Pant could not deliver in the last match and as he continues to struggle with the bat, he remains under scrutiny.
Pant has divided opinions — many questioned his temperament, shot-selection and the resultant slump in form — while others refused to be harsh on him considering the talent that he possesses.
The 21-year-old could be boosted by words of encouragement from legends such as Sunil Gavaskar, who has also stated that the time has come for India to look beyond Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with little more than a year left for the T20 World Cup in Australia.
But the Pant sub-plot is unlikely to significantly impact the Indians’ prospects in the final game.
The South Africans had no answer to Kohli’s batting at Mohali’s IS Bindra Stadium in the second T20I, and with the next game being hosted at a ground he is familiar with, the Indian captain will be eyeing another good outing.
New Soth Africa captain Quinton de Kock will again have to shoulder the bulk of responsibility with the bat and he will hope for support from the likes of David Miller and Reeza Hindricks.