No one can replace Pant's desire to dominate bowlers: Ian Chappell

New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS): Former Australia captain Ian Chappell thinks the Indian team will strongly feel Rishabh Pant's absence from the upcoming four-match series against the Pat Cummins-led side, saying no one can replace the left-handed wicketkeeper-batter's desire of dominating the bowlers in the longest format of the game.

Pant is currently recovering from multiple injuries after surviving a horrific car accident on December 30. He was initially taken to Saksham Hospital Multispecialty and Trauma Centre, before being admitted to Max Hospital, Dehradun.

On January 4, he was then airlifted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri West, Mumbai, where he underwent surgery. The nature of his injuries is going to keep him out of cricketing action for a significant period.

In his absence, K.S. Bharat and Ishan Kishan are the wicketkeeping options for India's first two Tests against Australia for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, to be held in Nagpur (February 9-13) and New Delhi (February 17-21).

"India also have some points to prove, not the least to do with how Pant's replacement performs. The main thing India will lose from Pant's unavailability is an excellent run rate, which came from his belligerent aggression. No one can replace Pant's desire to dominate bowlers, so India have to rely on their top batters not only performing but also maintaining a good strike rate," wrote Chappell in his column for ESPNCricinfo on Sunday.

Chappell added that Pant's absence means Australia already have an advantage, but cautioned the batters barring Steve Smith have to show that they are capable of scoring runs in Indian conditions.

"While it is more than a decade since India lost a series at home (to England 2-1 in 2012), Australia are portraying confidence after displaying the strong form on their own pitches. Their confidence is further boosted by a serious injury to Rishabh Pant, which means the wicketkeeper-batter's gregarious personality will be sorely missed."

"However, it is one thing to be confident of a player's batting ability in Australian conditions but another to wonder how they'll perform on entirely different Indian pitches. This is an area where Australian batters - Steven Smith apart - have to prove themselves."

Chappell pointed out that India's top-order have a huge task at their hands on tacking veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon and Australia's first-choice pace quartet of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, who will be missing the first Test due to finger injury.

"One of the main tasks for Indian players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara will be to establish mental superiority over Lyon. If Australia can't rely on Lyon claiming regular wickets at an acceptable rate, their bowling will then depend greatly on the "big three"."

Chappell signed off by saying India can win the series if they counter the threat posed by Smith and Lyon. "The main task for India's bowlers will be to find a way to keep the heavy-scoring Smith quiet. If India are able to limit Smith and Lyon's success they will be on the way to winning matches."



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