By R Kaushik
RISHABH Pant, the left-handed middle-order batsman, will arrive in England in the next couple of days to join the Indian team as cover for the injured Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan, who sustained a fracture in his left hand during his century against Australia at The Oval on Sunday, faces a spell on the sidelines with Sanjay Bangar, the assistant coach, saying his condition will be assessed 10-12 days hence. Just for the record, Dhawan has not yet been ruled out of the tournament, with the team management adopting a wait-and-watch approach.
Pant, one of the stand-bys for the World Cup and the first choice in the squad for several experts, will link up with the team in Manchester ahead of the next match against Pakistan on Sunday, though not in the capacity of a replacement. “As far as Shikhar is concerned, we’ll be observing him, and around the 10th or 12th day, we’ll get to know where he stands,” Bangar said on Wednesday. “We’ll be in a better position to take a call because we don’t want to rule out a precious player like Shikhar straight at the time of when the impact or the -injury happened, so we would like to wait and assess after 10-12 days.”
Explaining the rationale behind Pant travelling with the squad as the second back-up – Khaleel Ahmed, the left-arm paceman who also is not in the original 15, is already helping the team out at nets – Bangar went on, “It is just to make sure that if and when the replacement is required — and I’m saying if and when — then it is always good to have the replacement player coming in and practising with the team, as a stand-by.”
Bangar conceded that India would miss Dhawan’s experience and expertise, apart from the fact that he offers a left-handed option and that too right at the start of the innings. “Yeah, it’s always an advantage if you have a left-right combination right at the top of the order, but what is available to us, we have quality players,” he reiterated. “Shikhar will definitely be missed in the next three to four games, but we have a great backup for each position. So with that, we should be able to make it up.”
As for Pant flying in as cover, he observed, “He bats in the middle order, and obviously being a left-hander helps. He was named in the stand-bys as well. So the team management has gone and picked him for the order.”