Chance for Rishabh Pant to answer his critics as India look to seal T20 series against South Africa

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The spotlight is firmly on Rishabh Pant.

India will hope to wrap up their second successive T20 series clean sweep on the bounce when they face South Africa in the third and final T20I between the two sides at Bengaluru on Sunday.

The hosts hold a 1-0 lead in the three-match series following their thumping seven-wicket win in the second T20 at Mohali while the first clash at Dharamsala was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain.

For the Proteas, it will be a chance to bounce back and level the series before the two teams turn their attentions to the upcoming Test clashes.

Focus still on inconsistent Pant for India

Pant's erratic shot selection has been under the scanner.

Pant’s erratic shot selection has been under the scanner.

While India will be happy with the form they have shown since their World Cup semi-final exit, the pressure continues to grow on young Rishabh Pant after a spate of inconsistent displays. With veteran MS Dhoni out of the equation for now, Pant has been donning the gloves for India in all three formats. However, his returns with the bat, especially in white-ball cricket, have been disappointing to say the least.

Skipper Virat Kohli, coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Vikram Rathour have all urged Pant to buck up his game in recent days and the youngster will have to heed that warning quickly with other wicketkeeepers also waiting in the fray.

“I have already said that post World Cup we have been concentrating on the progress of Rishabh. We need to be patient with him, considering the immense talent that he possesses,” chief selector MSK Prasad told the Indian Express on his part.

“We are monitoring the workload of Rishabh. Of course, we have been grooming backups across all formats. We have the young K.S. Bharath doing well in the longer format for India ‘A’. We also have Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson doing well in the shorter formats for India ‘A’ and domestic cricket.”

Pant’s talent has never been in question but the 21-year-old will need to walk a fine line between fearless and careless cricket if he is to keep his place behind the stumps.

New look Proteas look for inspiration

Familiar surroundings at Bengaluru for Shamsi.

Familiar surroundings at Bengaluru for Shamsi.

It is very much a new look South Africa T20 squad in India after a disappointing World Cup campaign which also proved to be the international swansong for several stalwarts. The likes of Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy have brought the curtains down on their Proteas career and the onus is now very much on the next generation to step up.

Stand-in skipper Quinton de Kock will want to extract the maximum out of the current options at his disposal which includes leg-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. The 29-year-old has been handed the spin responsibilities in the wake of Tahir’s retirement and he is taking confidence from his IPL stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore ahead of the clash at the Chinnasway stadium.

“Definitely, it helps when you are around speaking to world-class players like Virat, Gayle and Shane Watson,” Shamsi told the Indian Express ahead of the game.

“The world of cricket is shrinking in the sense that everyone is ready to share knowledge.

“You will find senior South African fast bowlers imparting knowledge to Indian fast bowlers and vice-versa. Being familiar with surroundings while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore will certainly help.”

Shamsi’s confidence was echoed by batsman Temba Bavuma who feels India are very much a beatable side.

“They (India) are a formidable team but I don’t think they are an unbeatable side,” said Bavuma.

LIKELY XIs

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini.

South Africa: Reeza Hendricks, Quinton de Kock (c and wk), Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Bjorn Fortuin, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.

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