India vs England, 1st T20: Time for Pant and Company to make it count on big stage

Kanpur: India’s young guns will get an opportunity to fire on the big stage and carry forward the exceptional dominance over England when they clash with the visitors in the three-match Twenty20 series, starting in Kanpur on Thursday.

India has a different squad for the T20s compared to the one that was picked for the preceding ODI series. The six players who were not part of the 50-over squad are Rishabh Pant, Mandeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Parvez Rasool, Suresh Raina and Ashish Nehra.

Frontline spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been rested, making way for off-spinner Rasool and the experienced Amit Mishra, who travelled with the ODI squad.

Among the unestablished names, the one attracting maximum attention is 19-year-old sensation Rishabh Pant, who earned his maiden call-up following a prolific domestic season.

The Delhi-based wicketkeeper-batsman rose to prominence with his exploits in the U-19 World Cup last year and since then, his career graph is only rising.

The southpaw trained under the watchful eyes of coach Anil Kumble in the first net session in Kanpur on Tuesday and there is a good chance he might be handed the coveted India cap.

With no Shikhar Dhawan in the T20 line-up, there is likely to be a toss-up between Pant and Mandeep Singh for the opener’s slot alongside Lokesh Rahul.

It is difficult to ignore Pant given the ominous touch he has shown of late. While Mandeep could not do much in the first warm-up match against England, Pant turned heads with a 36-ball 59 in the second practice match.

Rahul, on the other hand, too would be raring to go after three failures in the ODI series. It is also an important series for local hero Raina, who is not a regular in the limited overs set up anymore and last played for India in the World T20 in March.

With Captain Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and M S Dhoni certain to bat at number three, four and five; Raina’s fight for the number six spot is with Manish Pandey, who warmed the bench in ODIs against England.

The pressure is on Raina to perform with the likes of Kedar Jadhav waiting in the wings. Jadhav came of age in the one-dayers and was adjudged man of the series.

It remains to be seen what bowling choices Kohli would make. Fast bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya made an impact in the ODIs and lends balance to the playing eleven.

The out and out-pace bowlers are Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and veteran Nehra, who has not played competitive cricket since the last IPL, following which he underwent a knee surgery.

India will also have to figure out their spin composition, whether to rely on part-timers or go in with two specialist spinners. Mishra and Chahal provide the leg-spin option while Rasool is the sole specialist off-spinner in the team.