Rishabh Pant will play his first World Cup game as he replaced Vijay Shankar in the Indian cricket team for the clash against England in Edgbaston. (Image credit: Twitter)
Rishabh Pant is truly destiny's child. After initially being left out of the Indian cricket team squad for the World Cup, the Delhi wicketkeeper was included in the side as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan, who was ruled out of the tournament after suffering a broken thumb in the clash against Australia. However, Pant's fortunes took yet another giant step when he was included in the playing XI for the clash against England after Vijay Shankar suffered a toe injury. India is a win away from reaching the playoffs while for England, this match is vital for their semi-final prospects.
After he was excluded from the Indian cricket team for the World Cup, Pant did not hide his disappointment in an interview to India Today. "I was disappointed. Obviously, because every player dreams of representing India and playing a World Cup for the country is even more special. I was disappointed but as a cricketer and as a professional, I know that there’s no point in being disappointed. I try to move on. I am focused on performing in the opportunities that I get. That’s about it," Pant said.
Even former skipper Sunil Gavaskar was surprised at Pant's omission. "A bit surprised, looking at his (Pant's) form. He was batting exceptionally well, not only in the IPL but before that also. He was showing great improvement in his wicket-keeping as well. He brings that left-handed option in the top-six which is very handy against the bowlers," Gavaskar had told PTI after the squad was selected. Former England skipper Michael Vaughan also expressed surprise that there was only one left-hander in the entire Indian batting team.
A win in one of their three games will secure them a place in the semi-final. If they win all three, they are assured of a top spot. If they win only two out of three, they have to hope Australia lose to South Africa in order to seal the first position. For England, the situation is incredibly dire. If they lose to India, their game against New Zealand is a must-win. They will have to hope that Bangladesh loses to India but beat Pakistan. If they lose both games, they will be eliminated from the tournament. They will also be hoping that Sri Lanka wins only one game.
Pakistan secured a sensational three-wicket win against Afghanistan and kept their hopes of reaching the semi-final alive. On the other hand, New Zealand’s hopes of reaching the semi-final were delayed after suffering a heavy loss to Australia in Lord’s. With the wins for Pakistan and Australia, the race for the playoffs has intensified. Australia is now assured of a top-two finish while for Pakistan, their fate will now boil down to the final league game and they will be hoping for some other results going their way.