Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: One of the most significant developments from India's squads for the upcoming white-ball series has been the exclusion of Rishabh Pant from ODIs and T20Is. Though reports came of him being asked to report to the NCA for a strength and conditioning programme, the future of Pant in India's white-ball scheme of things is under dark clouds.

In 2022, Pant scored 364 runs in 25 T20Is, averaging 21.41 at a strike-rate of 132.84. In 12 ODIs this year, he made 336 runs, averaging 37.33 and strike-rate of 96.55. But in Tests, Pant has been at his best, making 680 runs in 12 innings at an average of 61.81 and strike-rate of 90.90.

Former India opener Gautam Gambhir thinks that Pant needs to focus on red-ball cricket while he waits to have a chance at making the cut for white-ball cricket. "That's why he's not part of both squads. His white-ball numbers are not that great as compared to his Test numbers."

"That's why people like Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, KL Rahul, who's kept wickets in the ODIs, they are now ahead of Rishabh Pant. Look at Ishan Kishan, when he got that opportunity, he scored a double hundred in ODIs, so how can you ignore someone like him?"

"Probably Rishabh will have to wait for his opportunity if he gets that chance in white-ball cricket. At the moment, he should focus on red-ball cricket. We know he's got the talent, but he has got enough opportunities in white-ball cricket, where he was asked to open the batting or be in the middle-order. The management has tried every possible way for him to succeed or given him the platform to be so in white-ball cricket, but unfortunately that didn't happen," said Gambhir during an interaction organised by Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the upcoming Sri Lanka tour of India.

Apart from Pant, right-handed opener KL Rahul has been under the pump across all formats. After a a forgettable outing in the Men's T20 World Cup, Rahul isn't a part of the T20I team against Sri Lanka. Though he is in the ODI squad, Rahul isn't the vice-captain anymore, with Hardik Pandya named as deputy to Rohit Sharma.

In the recent 2-0 Test series victory over Bangladesh, Rahul didn't have a great time with the bat, averaging only 14.25 across four Test innings - 22, 23, 10 and 2. Gambhir, who has seen Rahul from close quarters during his time as a mentor to Lucknow Super Giants in IPL 2022, insists Rahul has to open up more in his style to play to be back in the reckoning in the shortest format.

"KL Rahul has the ability. If a player like him scores two or three T20I centuries and has the capability to score hundred as an opener at Lord's or in South Africa, and he even got two hundreds against Mumbai (Indians) in the Mumbai city. So, he has got the ability to hit hundreds in T20Is, ODIs or make that as an opener in Test cricket. But with his recent performances not being good, then the people who are performing well will be given the chance."

"I have always believed he's the talent of every kind. If there's anyone who can stop KL Rahul from the way he wishes to play, then it is KL Rahul himself. No one has got to prove to anyone, especially to KL Rahul. Whatever the talent he had to show, he's done it. But he can express himself more and play in that way, it is that one thing which he will have to change."

Another notable exclusion from the T20I squad has been of senior fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was India's leading wicket-taker in T20Is in 2022 with 37 wickets, averaging 19.56 and economy rate of 6.98. Gambhir believes a good showing in IPL 2022 will get him back in the frame for the Indian team.

"You never look into something like that because ultimately when you are playing, you can keep performing and it should be the criteria for you to be selected into an international team. If you keep performing in whatever opportunities you get, and if he deserves to be part of the playing eleven or the squad, I think he should be."

"But yes, now the younger guys have been given the opportunity. If Bhuvneshwar Kumar has a very good IPL, he can definitely come back into the scheme of things."