India vs Bangladesh: Rishabh Pant banks on Kotla factor to regain foothold
Rohit Sharma was the first to pick up his kitbag and walk towards nets. The heavy Delhi smog meant Team India’s warm-up session was limited to catching practice and some light training. One by one the rest of the Indian cricketers followed their captain, except one – Rishabh Pant. The wicket-keeper batsman was far from being done. For the next 20 minutes he dived towards his left, stretched to his right, bent down quickly and worked on his keeping skills with fielding coach R Sridhar. There was nothing outrageous; it is something any keeper would do in the lead up to an international game. But Sunday’s fixture against Bangladesh is not an ordinary one for Rishabh Pant. It will be his T20I debut at Feroz Shah Kotla - where he has grown up playing most of his cricket - but more importantly it will mark the beginning of a comeback, not exactly in the team but somewhere deep within.
From being referred as the first choice ‘keeper in all three formats post the ODI World Cup, Pant suddenly lost his place in the Test XI and before he knew it, Sanju Samson – the only one who gives Pant the batsman a run for his money – was breathing down his neck in the Bangladesh series.
The is no question mark over Pant’s place in the Indian side in Dhoni’s absence, even if there is the size of it isn’t big enough to form frowned eyebrows. But the Delhi stumper will be the first to admit he is due a big score. Perhaps that’s why there was refrain in Pant’s batting in the nets. Despite India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour saying, ‘Ye powerplay hai and you have a deep square leg and long on,’ Pant did not for once took the aerial route. This is not to suggest, he will repeat the same thing on Sunday, a defensive Pant will be the last thing India needs in T20Is but the extra keeping drills and solid defensive pushes definitely suggest Pant has been thinking, about those top edges, those criticisms about keeping and above all, the need for a big score.
“We have stuck with Rishabh Pant all this while and this is the format he embraces more. This is the format that gave him a lot of attention and where he excelled. We have to stick with him for a while and see how he performs because we have seen how well he can take the game forward on his day,” said India stand-in captain Rohit Sharma.
Rohit is spot on with his assertion. Pant did make his name as a IPL specialist but it still remains a mystery as to why he hasn’t been able to replicate the same in international cricket.
In 19 limited overs games this year his highest score has been an unbeaten 65 in a T20I in West Indies. “We need to back him a little more. He has hardly played 10 or 15 T20Is. So, it’s very early to judge him whether he is good or not. So, I still believe there’s a lot of time left before we pass any judgment on Rishabh Pant,” said Rohit.
The home comfort might just come to Pant’s rescue this time. Pant has so far played only one match at New Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla ground. It was an ODI against Australia in March this year. He was out for 16 but considering the success he got playing for Delhi Daredevils (now Capitals), a Pant show cannot be ruled out.
“He is just one innings away. Luckily the match is taking place in New Delhi, a ground which he knows like the back of his palm. He is familiar with the pitch. He will get the support of the crowd. And instead of being under extra pressure, I think it will give him confidence,” said former India wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra.