Former Australia captain Ian Chappell believes Rishabh Pant's absence from the upcoming four-match series against the Pat Cummins-led side will be felt strongly by the Indian team, saying no one can replace the left-handed wicketkeeper-desire batter's to dominate the bowlers in the longest format of the game.
Pant is currently recovering from multiple injuries sustained in a car accident on December 30th. He was taken to Saksham Hospital Multispecialty and Trauma Centre first, before being transferred to Max Hospital in Dehradun.
He was then airlifted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri West, Mumbai, on January 4, where he underwent surgery. The severity of his injuries will keep him out of action for an extended period of time.
In his absence, K.S. Bharat and Ishan Kishan will be the wicketkeepers for India's first two Border-Gavaskar Trophy Tests against Australia, which will be held in Nagpur (February 9-13) and New Delhi (February 17-21).
"India has some points to prove as well, not the least of which is how Pant's replacement performs. The main thing that Pant's absence will cost India is an excellent run rate that resulted from his belligerent aggression. Because no one can replace Pant's desire to dominate bowlers, India must rely on their top batters to not only perform but also maintain a high strike rate "On Sunday, Chappell wrote a column for ESPNCricinfo.
Chappell added that Pant's absence gives Australia an advantage, but batsmen other than Steve Smith must demonstrate their ability to score 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 boosted further by Rishabh Pant's serious injury, which means the wicketkeeper-gregarious batter's 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. Australian batters, with the exception of Steven Smith, must excel in this area.
Chappell stated that India's top-order will face a significant challenge in coping with veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon and Australia's first-choice pace quartet of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Mitchell Starc, who will miss the first Test due to a finger injury.
"One of the most important tasks for Indian players such as Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Cheteshwar Pujara will be to establish mental dominance 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 concluded by saying that India can win the series if they can neutralise the threat posed by Smith and Lyon. "The main challenge for India's bowlers will be to keep the high-scoring Smith quiet. If India can limit Smith and Lyon's success, they will be well on their way to winning games."