India is set to take on New Zealand in the first of the three-match T20I series, in Wellington, on Friday (November 18). After the dismal end to their T20 World Cup 2022 campaign, in Australia, the Men in Blue will start a new cycle, keeping the next edition of the T20 WC in mind, with plenty of youngsters in focus. In the absence of many regular players such as captain Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, etc., the focus will be on stand-in captain Hardik Pandya, his deputy Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill and the likes.
Ahead of the series opener, former Indian opener Wasim Jaffer has chosen a new batting slot for keeper-batter Pant. Many former cricketers believe Pant can be most effective if he bats higher up in the order. Jaffer has also backed the swashbuckling left-hander to open the innings in a series where India are without their key players. "The best place for Pant to bat is at the top of the order,” Jaffer was quoted as saying on ESPNcricinfo. “When fielders are up and Pant gets going at the start of the innings, he becomes a dangerous player like he bats in Tests and ODIs. Once he gets a start of 20-30, then he is dangerous. I don’t think fielders outside doesn’t matter to him,” the veteran further stated.
“When he comes in at No.5, the pressure is on him and it’s difficult for him to hit sixes. Pant is the kind of player you want to give India a blistering start,” Jaffer added.
Recently, Robin Uthappa -- part of MS Dhoni-led India's victorious 2007 T20 WC campaign -- also shared a similar opinion with regard to Pant's batting spot in the shortest format for Team India.
"The next World Cup is in two years' time. So, keeping the conditions there in mind, I feel Rishabh Pant should bat in the top 3," Uthappa told Sportskeeda in a recent interaction. "If you look at his IPL records, his best performances have come when he has opened or when he has batted at No. 3. So, you have to give him the opportunity to become a match-winner in that position," he further asserted.
Given India are eyeing a revamp in their playing style in T20Is, it might be possible that the team management can promote Pant as an opener.