Ashish Nehra feels that Rinku Singh has earned himself a contender's tag for the finisher's spot in the Indian squad for next year's T20 World Cup, but it's not a done deal yet as other players will challenge him for the place.
The T20 World Cup will be played in the West Indies and the US in June next year.
Rinku has been in blazing form in the ongoing five-match T20I series against Australia, and, in the fourth match in Raipur on Friday, his 46 off 29 balls was vital in India's 3-1 series-clinching 20-run win.
"There is no doubt that Rinku Singh is a contender for inclusion in India's T20 World Cup squad," the former left-arm pacer told JioCinema.
"But the World Cup is still far away and the spot he's fighting for has many challengers."
Rinku has played some defining knocks in the ongoing series. His 31 not out from nine balls played a big role in India's 44-run win in the second T20I at Thiruvananthapuram.
With no clarity on whether Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be in India's scheme of things for the global showpiece, there could be major changes in the T20 squad for the World Cup and Rinku could emerge as a leading contender for the slog overs.
"You can look at Jitesh Sharma (wicketkeeper-batter) and Tilak Varma. We'll have to discuss the positions where Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya will play," the cricketer-turned-commentator said.
"So, we have to see how many spots are available in the 15-member squad. But one thing is sure, he (Rinku) has opened everyone's eyes and put everyone under pressure. But there's still a lot of time to go. The trip to South Africa is coming up followed by the IPL," said Nehra.
Nehra defended the young Indian pace attack, which has been criticised in some quarters for leaking 200-plus totals in the first three T20Is against Australia.
The squad for the five-match series is without stalwarts Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, who have been rested. "The conditions for the first three matches were different and a lot of the bowlers have changed. Your experienced bowlers have been rested.
"If you speak of Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar, they have just been introduced to international cricket. And then we saw over 200 runs being scored in the first three matches. So, it's not that only the Indian bowlers leaked runs, even Australia's bowlers have given away a lot of runs. Mukesh Kumar has been a big positive for India. The way he has bowled with wet balls, his execution of yorkers and bowling in the death overs has been terrific," he added.
With inputs from PTI