Rishabh Pant proud of 'different cricket' from India in T20 series against South Africa

Rain washed out fifth T20 in Bengaluru after hosts had fought back from 0-2 down in series

India captain Rishabh Pant, right, and all-rounder Hardik Pandya. AFP
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Stand-in India captain Rishabh Pant was pleased with the way his team fought back in his first major test as skipper against South Africa to level the T20 series 2-2 after a washout in the fifth match on Sunday.

The hosts, without premier white-ball players like captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah, had fallen 0-2 behind against a full-strength South African side who had dominated them in a Test and ODI series back home earlier in the year.

But India went with the same playing XI throughout the series, and hit back with 48 and 82-run wins to level the contest. In the fifth and final T20 in Bengaluru, persistent rain forced the match to be abandoned after India were reduced to 28-2 inside four overs.

"It might get a little bit frustrating [with the rain], but there are a lot of positives, especially the way the whole team showed character after the series was 2-0 [in favour of South Africa]," said Pant.

"We are just finding different ways to win the matches, we are trying to play different kind of cricket which we never used to play. There will be mistakes but as along we learn from our mistakes and keep improving it will be fine."

Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a constant threat, picking up six wickets from four games at an economy of six while all-rounder Hardik Pandya extended his IPL form to international cricket, scoring 117 runs at a strike rate of over 150. But the biggest positive was the successful return of veteran wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Karthik, who hit a crucial 55 from 27 balls in the fourth match in Rajkot.

Dinesh Karthik made a grand return to the Indian team. AFP

Karthik was making a comeback after three years and had been selected for the specific role of a power hitter in the final five overs. Coach Rahul Dravid was glad that experiment worked perfectly.

"He was picked for a very specific skill," Dravid said on Sunday. "He was picked for what he was doing exceptionally well over the last two-three years and it's nice when that's kind of vindicated in the sense that it almost came together brilliantly for us in that game in Rajkot where we needed that big performance in the last five overs to be able to make a par score."

Karthik's vintage form has suddenly put pressure on Pant's position in the playing XI after the latter, who was made captain for the first time ahead of the series when KL Rahul pulled out injured, had an ordinary outing with scores of 29, 5, 6 and 17. Also, he was dismissed in almost identical fashion in all matches, mis-hitting wide deliveries.

"It is for you guys to decide on how I am doing as a player and captain," Pant said.

"I can only focus on giving my 100 per cent every time I go on the field and keep improving."

Updated: June 20, 2022, 5:20 AM
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