Mumbai: The mountain of runs that he has plundered so far in first-class cricket has ensured that the focus is trained on young Rishabh Pant as India A get ready to take on visiting England in the second and final warm-up match here on Thursday (January 12).
This will be the last practice game before the six-match limited overs series - three ODIs and as many T20Is – begins with the first ODI in Pune on Sunday and Pant gave all indications that he is no mood to let this opportunity go begging.
Pant padded up just after seasoned campaigners Rahane and Raina had finished their knocking session and immediately grabbed everyone’s attention with his free flowing strokeplay.
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 11, 2017
Pant, who was part of the India U-19 squad that finished runner-up to the West Indies in the last junior World Cup, has impressed one and all with his exploits in recent times.
His 308 against Maharashtra at almost run-a-ball, an innings that contained as many as 9 sixes and 42 fours, at the beginning of this Ranji Trophy season was followed by another blistering three-figure knock against Jharkhand, which helped him earn a call-up to the India T20 squad for the three-match series against England.
The pint-sized wicketkeeper, who is seen by many as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's successor, should relish the Brabourne Stadium track that afforded good bounce and on which the ball came on nicely in last night's day/night practice game, which England won.
But not all attention will be on Pant as there's a rival to him for the wicketkeeper batsman's spot in Jharkhand's Ishan Kishan, his teammate in the World Cup U-19 side and also an attacking batsman like the Delhi player.
The selectors have named Kishan as wicketkeeper for the game.
Skipper Ajinkya Rahane, coming off a long injury-lay off, will play his first game after his rehabilitation and would be eager to hit the straps before the ODI series.
Suresh Raina, who has lost his spot in the ODI team but is a member of the T20 squad, would also be keen to hit the high note.
There are other all-round aspirants like Vijay Shankar, Parvez Rasool and Deepak Hooda, besides experienced batsman Sheldon Jackson in the India A ranks.
The frontline bowling would be handled by senior pacers Vinay Kumar, Ashok Dinda and Pradeep Sangwan, along with left- arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem.
England too would like a game to be given to their main all-rounder Ben Stokes, wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and speedster Liam Plunkett who were in the reserves in the first warm-up match.
Key batsman Joe Root is, however, unlikely to play the game as he is set to join the team only tomorrow and then travel with the others to Pune for the first ODI.
Unlike the opening warm-up tie, the second one is a day match.
India A: Rishabh Pant, Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Suresh Raina, Deepak Hooda, Ishan Kishan (wk), Sheldon Jackson, Vijay Shankar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Parvez Rasool, Vinay Kumar, Pradeep Sangwan, Ashok Dinda
England: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey and Chris Woakes.