Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson

Former India keeper-batter Saba Karim has backed Rishabh Pant to retain his place in the playing XI for the second ODI against New Zealand despite his batting woes. Karim added that if any batter has to sit out for the Hamilton one-dayer, it has to be Sanju Samson.

Having lost the Auckland ODI by seven wickets, Team India face a must-win game when they take on the Kiwis in Hamilton on Sunday (November 27). In the build-up to the game, Pant has been in firing line owing to his poor batting returns.

The 25-year-old was dismissed for 15 off 23 in the opening one-dayer, dragging a short delivery from Lockie Ferguson back onto his stumps. While some critics and former players want Pant to be given a break, Karim has a different view. During a discussion on India News, he opined:

“I don’t believe in resting players. If I had to rest Pant, I wouldn’t have picked him in the 15 in the first place. If I have picked him, then he is in my playing XI. We easily forget that he had won us the last one-day match in England with a hundred. No other batter could have won that for India from that position.”

Elaborating on the changes he would make for the second ODI against the Kiwis, the former player added:

“I would go for Deepak Hooda as a sixth bowling option, and if I had to drop someone, I would drop Sanju Samson. He doesn’t fit at No.3. He is a top-order batter, and that is where he should play.”

Virat Kohli’s childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma also backed Karim’s views in the Pant vs Samson debate. According to Sharma, India have invested heavily in Pant for a reason. He elaborated:

“Indian cricket has invested so much in Pant. He has been given a long rope. He is in the team because he can single-handedly win games for the side. If he is in my 15, I will definitely play him. Even if Samson and Ishan Kishan are the other keeper-batter options, I would still go for Pant first.”

Both Pant and Samson were part of Team India’s playing XI for the Auckland ODI. While Pant was dismissed cheaply, Samson contributed 36 off 38.

“Samson looks as the only player who can be replaced” – Reetinder Singh Sodhi also backs Pant

Former India all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi, the third panelist on the debate, also shared similar thoughts to Karim and Sharma.

He empathised with Samson but claimed that India’s team combination would be better with a sixth-bowling option ahead of the keeper-batter. Sodhi said:

“We are all supporting Samson and want him to be given a long rope. But if we look at team combination, Samson looks as the only player who can be replaced. 36 off 38 doesn’t guarantee him a place. Impact has to be counted. That is where Team India have to come up and think differently. We are building a team for the World Cup.”

Samson has made an impressive start to his one-day career, scoring 330 runs in 11 games at an average of 66 (bolstered by five not outs) and a strike rate of 104.76.

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Edited by Renin Wilben Albert

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