Former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir wants the hosts to start off the T20I series against Australia with left-handed wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant in the playing eleven, instead of veteran Dinesh Karthik. In Asia Cup 2022, India oscillated between picking Karthik, a specialist finisher, and Pant, a left-hander who can bat anywhere from top to middle order.
With both named in India's squad for the T20Is against Australia, South Africa and the T20 World Cup, it gives captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid ample time to see who amongst Karthik and Pant can be a better fit for the Indian team.
"To start off with (in the series), Rishabh Pant. Because I have said it in the past as well, you don't pick a T20 player in your playing eleven only to play 10-12 balls. There is no guarantee/surety that he is going to win you games. Dinesh Karthik, unfortunately, has shown no interest in batting in the top five.
"Your wicket-keeper has to be able to bat in the top five and Rishabh Pant has that quality to bat at any number for that matter, number three, four, five," said Gambhir while replying to a query from IANS in the virtual press conference organised by Star Sports.
Gambhir further elaborated on how having Pant in the eleven will get India to have six bowling options. "I will definitely have Rishabh Pant in my batting order. I don't believe in the notion that you need a left-hander in the middle-order. That's not the criteria in the playing eleven, especially in a side like India. The criteria should be 'do you have the ability to win a game?', and Rishabh Pant has that ability to win the game, especially at number five.
"So, Pant to start with at number five, Hardik Pandya at six, Axar at seven and see if you want to Ashwin at eight, followed by three seamers. I won't play a wrist-spinner as Ashwin can do the job which will be useful in Australia. So, Rishabh Pant is the one to start with."
Asked if he saw the possibility of having both Pant and Karthik in the playing eleven, Gambhir didn't see much value in it. "You can't do that. If you do that, you will miss out on a sixth bowler and you would not go into the World Cup with only five genuine bowlers. You need to have a backup. Unless you drop someone like a Suryakumar Yadav, or KL Rahul has a bad tournament... and you can start with Rishabh Pant opening the batting."
"Otherwise, I don't see both these guys playing in the middle-order. I feel that can't happen, India has to go with a sixth bowler. It could be Hooda, Axar Patel, Ashwin and three fast bowlers and Hardik Pandya. I don't see both these guys playing together."