Indian off-spinner R Ashwin has hailed Rishabh Pant and stated that he is very crucial to India's team combination and can help the team take away the game from the opposition. He also added that watching New Zealand play against England will give India valuable lessons ahead of the WTC finale.
When India takes on New Zealand in the World Test Championship finale, wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant is expected to play a major role. He has been India's leading run-getter this year in the longer format but it has been his impact that has attracted eyeballs. Be it his Gabba fifty in the fourth innings or his ton in the fourth Test in Ahmedabad, when he scored, he made sure to derail the opposition completely.
Talking about the possible impact of Rishabh Pant in the inaugural WTC finale, Indian off-spinner R Ashwin outlined that the youngster greatly helps in the team's combination and can play a decisive role.
"We all know what sort of player Rishabh is. He can take the game away from the opposition. We have the luxury of batting the keeper at No. 6 and playing five bowlers, which is so crucial for the combination. His natural bat swing and fearless approach make him a special player and a talent to watch," Ashwin told The Indian Express.
However, unlike Rishabh Pant, senior batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara struggled in the home series against England. Ashwin feels that when players go through a rough patch, people feel that potential replacements would do better but the experience of the duo shouldn't be forgotten.
"When things are not going right, we always feel a new commodity or a different commodity will do much better. When you are talking about people who have played in excess of 50 Test matches (Rahane) and played in excess of 75 Test matches (Pujara) and have been champion performers, we are forgetting things. We just don’t look at the champion performance that Rahane produced on the way to the greatest Test series we played in Australia. He batted beautifully and got a hundred (at MCG)."
Unlike India, New Zealand will have the distinct advantage of playing a two-match Test series ahead of the WTC finale. Meanwhile, the final will be the first game for many players since the IPL. Ashwin stated that it will be a big challenge, however, he also feels that India will get to watch the Black Caps against England and that should help them to know about their opposition better.
"Most of the players have not played cricket since the IPL was called off. So I think that is one of the biggest challenges, but once we go there I think the Indian team will adapt quickly and perform like we did in Australia."
"Being match-prepared and having match practice are two different things. We will be going after the IPL. Those two matches will give New Zealand a feeler, but at the same time, watching those two matches can also give some valuable lessons to us. One of the things that I have benefited from is watching cricket footage, going back in time and watching matches in different parts of the world."
After the WTC finale, India will play against England in the five-match Test series. The Indian offie reckons that England play well at home but India also have good experience in the conditions.
"England play good cricket on their pitches and they have shown how good they are in their conditions. James Anderson will make it as difficult as it can be for us. The conditions are key in England, but the experience that this Indian team has should hold us in good stead. If other players chip in and make runs with Virat Kohli around, we stand a good chance to win."