Is it getting tight for Rishabh Pant?
- In ODIs and T20Is, Pant has had an average run and may result in another spell out of the team.
- Pant's latest failure, ironically came at the same venue where his poor wicketkeeping and early dismissal saw him lose out on a World Cup spot initially.
- With wicketkeeping not being his strongest point, Pant could be soon in the 'danger zone' in the Tests too.
MUMBAI: The grimace on his face, as he trudged off after slapping a long hop from South African left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin straight to short fine leg to get out for four, reflected the concoction of pain, frustration, and anxiety that seems to be dogging him at the moment. It's not easy to be Rishabh Pant at the moment.
His latest failure, ironically came at the same venue where his poor wicketkeeping and early dismissal saw him lose out on a World Cup spot with the Indian team initially. In ODIs and T20s, Pant has had an average run and may result in another spell out of the team. "They'll run out of patience with him. There are other young talented wicketkeepers like Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan waiting in the wings," said VVS Laxman while commentating. In fact, Samson, who has just cracked a 48-ball 91 for India A against South Africa in a One-dayer in Thiruvananthapuram which was converted into a T20 game, looks to now be inches away from displacing Pant in white-ball cricket.
After he bungled up yet another opportunity at Mohali, fans on social media cried out for MS Dhoni's return to the Indian team. "I see him playing in the next T20 World Cup (in Australia next year). He's calm, composed and India still need his finishing touch," said Dean Jones.
But then, is it a case of Pant not utilizing his chances, or Team India losing him? Perhaps, both. Just before the series against South Africa, skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri read out the riot act to him. While Kohli quipped that youngsters can't expect more than five chances, Shastri wanted a 'rap on the knuckles' for Pant. Then, new batting coach Vikram Rahore made it worse by saying that the team wanted him to be carefree, and not careless. Is the team management putting needless, excessive pressure on him?
In a show for Cricbuzz, former India batsman Ajay Jadeja hinted at this. "Too much pressure has been put on him. You could see that on his face when he got out yesterday. It's not like he came into the Indian team in just one day. He started playing India Under-19, scored triple hundreds in the Ranji Trophy, and then did well in the IPL. When a good batsman goes through a bad patch, it's just form that he's lost. In bad form, your technique doesn't become bad, but you play the 'situation' and not the ball," he observed.
Perhaps, Shastri and Kohli can take a cue from the Delhi Capitals, who have invested in Pant and helped his stardom.
"His performance wasn't that great with us in the first year. But he was a different batsman next year. It takes time for a player to develop. He started off in a tough situation in England, but did well. If you look at the example of a Rohit Sharma, even he took time to settle down. It took him a long time to get his first hundred," DC assistant coach Pravin Amre told TOI. "He's scored Test hundreds in England Australia, so there can't be an issue about his technique," he added.
Jadeja felt that continuous talk about his faulty shot selection, and attempts to restrict his natural game, will only confuse the 'keeper-bat. "Now, you've told him to play in a 'sensible' manner. Now, his mindset his to play the ball defensively, but the ball is there to be hit. So, you want to hit it. If he had played it 'normally,' he would've kept scoring runs," he said.
Jadeja wants people to lower their expectations from Pant.
Former India all-rounder Zaheer Khan made a pertinent point that sums up the Pant debate perfectly. "There's no problem if Pant is making mistakes. What will be crucial is how are you viewing it and handling him in the future." he told Cricbuzz.