'Shouting or suppressing' won't help Rishabh Pant, says Yuvraj Singh
How does the Indian team get the best out of Rishabh Pant? As far as Yuvraj Singh is concerned, it must start with trying to understand the youngster as a person and work with him instead of trying "to suppress him".
Pant's place in the side has been a hot topic of debate in Indian cricket in recent times, with the wicketkeeper-batsman's shot selection at times leaving pundits perplexed and his run of low scores - one fifty-plus score across formats since the Test hundred against Australia - making people wonder if he has been elevated too soon.
"Somebody needs to get the best out of him. How you get the best out of him is completely based on his character. You have to understand his character, you have to understand his psychology, and you have to work like that. If you're going to suppress him, you're not going to get the best out of him," Yuvraj told NDTV in an interview.
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In mid-September, Virat Kohli had mentioned in a press conference that youngsters needed to come in to the Indian team with the knowledge that they would get around five opportunities to make the most of. Speaking specifically about Pant, Kohli had said, "Reading the situation and decision-making is the expectation from all the players, including myself."
In the same interaction, Ravi Shastri had promised "a rap on the knuckles" for Pant, and others, who let the team and themselves down. Not long after, new batting coach Vikram Rathour had been asked a similar question at a press meet, where he had said that Pant needed to understand "there is a fine line between fearless cricket and careless cricket".
Yuvraj advocated more mentoring for an obviously talented young batsman instead of "shouting and suppressing".
"Yes, he's been given a lot of chances, but how do you get the best out of the guy - obviously the people monitoring him in the team, coach, captain, have to get the best out of him, rather than … unfortunately for me, there was no one to tell me what to do," Yuvraj said. "At the moment, the thing is, at the IPL young guys are getting a lot of money. So maybe someone needs to tell them how to go about their business or how to go about their life, and what is your priority.
"Somebody really needs to talk to them and get the best out of them, rather than shouting or suppressing, things are not going to help. That guy has scored two Test away hundreds at a very young age, so the guy has a lot of potential. How do you get the best out of that guy is something they have to realise."
The Pant question is one that many former cricketers have tried to answer over the past few days.
Sunil Gavaskar, for example, called for Pant to shift down to No. 5 in white-ball matches to allow him to play his naturally aggressive game. "Giving him a bit of breathing space by slotting him at No. 5 could also help, for at that number he will invariably come in to bat where his aggressive batting is needed from the start rather than when he has to build his and the team's innings," Gavaskar wrote in Sunday Mid-Day recently.
Gavaskar's idea found a taker in VVS Laxman, who told Star Sports, "The nature of Rishabh Pant's batting is that he plays aggressive shots, and unfortunately at the international level he is not able to succeed at the No. 4 position. Pant should bat at No. 5 or 6, where you have the license to go out and express yourself. At the moment, he doesn't know the right method of scoring runs at No. 4."
Writing in the Times of India, Gautam Gambhir also agreed, criticising Rathour's take on the matter in the process: "It is disappointing to see the team-management using words like 'from fearless to careless'. This is no way to handle a young human resource. What I do know is that the boy is now playing for survival rather than scoring runs. From the outside it seems that his mindset is all over the place. Someone needs to put an arm around his shoulder and tell him that he is wanted in the team."