Apart from the rain, one topic that garnered a lot of attention in the recently-concluded India’s tour of New Zealand was the Rishabh Pant vs Sanju Samson debate. Both wicketkeeper-batters are prime candidates in India’s XI, but so far, the impression from the team management has emerged that they want to stick with Pant over the in-form Samson.

Notably Pant has been struggling in the limited-overs format for a while now. Samson, on the other hand, has impressed in whatever little opportunities he has got. The Kerala batter has started his ODI career with a bang, scoring over 300 runs in 11 matches at an impressive average of 66. Still, it is not enough for the team management to include Samson in the Playing XI.

Samson played only one match in the entire New Zealand tour – the opening ODI in Auckland, where he batted at No. 7 and scored 36 off 38 balls. In the next game, he was dropped for Deepak Hooda, whereas Pant has been given consistent chances despite the 25-year-old not being able to cash in on it.

In the four innings he has batted, Pant scored 6, 11, 15 and 10, and with each Pant failure, the support for Samson is growing louder. Meanwhile, India’s stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan has finally broken silence on the red-hot topic and revealed the reason behind the management persisting with Pant.

Dhawan said Pant had done well on the England tour, which is why the left-handed batter got the chance. Dhawan reckoned that Samson is also doing well, but he has to wait despite doing better at times.

“It’s not that tough. Like in Rishabh’s case, he played the one-dayers in England and scored a century there. And a player who gets a 100 gets backing. Everything is done keeping the larger picture in mind. If there is a match-winner, you have to back him. A decision is taken after analysing many things,” Dhawan said during the post-match press conference after the third ODI was called-off due to rain.

“Of course, Sanju is doing really well. Whatever opportunities he has gotten, he has done well, but sometimes despite performing well, a player has to wait because the one before him has been doing well. With the skill he (Pant) has, we know that he is a match-winner. Certain cushioning needs to be given that cushioning when he isn’t performing. So that cushioning is given to that player,” he added.


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