Heading into the series against West Indies, discussion surrounding Rishabh Pant continued to do the rounds in the media but the 22-year-old keeper-batsman has the backing of the dressing room and most importantly, its skipper ViratKohli who asked for patience and preached collective responsibility. His comments are along the same lines as vice-captain Rohit Sharma’s sentiments that the entire team needs to chip in together to help Pant through this drought in confidence.
Rishabh Pant’s batting and keeping abilities were under the radar and scrutinized extensively during the T20I series against Bangladesh last month and as such, Rohit even asked the media to ‘leave him alone’. When questioned, Kohli even went on to rebuke the disrespectful “Dhoni, Dhoni” crowd chants that have accompanied Pant’s recent lapses behind the stumps.
“We certainly believe in Rishabh Pant’s ability,” Kohli said on Thursday (December 5). “When you say it’s the player’s responsibility to work hard, perform and do all those things, I agree. But I think it’s the collective responsibility of everyone around as well to give that player some space to do so as well.
“If he misses a chance or something, people can’t shout MS in the stadium. It’s not respectful if I have to put it that way. No player would like that to happen. If you’re playing in your own country, you should get support rather than always thinking about what mistake is this guy going to make. No one wants to be in that position.”
Since the start of the year, Pant has scored just one half-century across the two white-ball formats, making 201 runs in 13 matches at an average of 20.10 in T20Is and 188 runs in nine ODIs at 23.50. The numbers are in stark contrast to his returns in the IPL, where he averages 36.17 while striking at 162.7. Pant was the designated all-format keeper until the tour of West Indies in August but lost his spot in the Tests to the returning WriddhimanSaha. The Indian captain opined that the dip in confidence was down to the constant scrutiny of his game.
Incidentally, other members of the Indian team management haven’t held back from expressing their opinions on Pant’s development. In an interview with the broadcaster, head coach Ravi Shastri criticized Pant’s shot selection as “disappointing” and that “a rap on the knuckles” could be in the offing after Pant mistimed a loft and got out to Fabian Allen at a crucial stage in the Port of Spain ODI. Selector VikramRathour had subsequently asked Pant to be “fearless instead of careless” while Kohli himself had previously called on the youngster to read game situations better.
“We know he’s a match-winner and once he comes good you will see a different version of him – which you’ve seen in the IPL already because he’s free, he’s relaxed there, he feels that there’s a lot more respect when it comes to his ability and what he can achieve for the team. I think he needs to feel that a bit more around him. He can’t be isolated to an extent that he gets nervous on the field. If you want him to do well and win matches for the team, all of us collectively need to make him feel like he belongs, and we’re here to do things for him rather than against him.”
Kohli, meanwhile, quashed the idea of a promotion up the batting order for Pant, stating the top three-four batsmen were set. “Not really, in the Indian team if you look at the top three or four batsmen right now, (they are set positions). I mention this about Saha as well when I was asked in Kolkata – how do you see him playing shorter formats and so on. And I said – In IPL you have eight teams. And you have a lot more players who can play in lot more positions. You have to figure out who are the best guys to do the job at a particular position,” he said.
Pant got dismissed for cheap once again last night after playing a reckless shot off a loose ball from Sheldon Cottrell. Virat tried to build the innings with him and despite starting strong, Rishabh had to walk back to pavilion after scoring 18 in 9 balls.
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