Selectors and team management must support talented wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant; comparison with Mahendra Singh Dhoni won’t help
Rishabh Pant during a training session at Thiruvananthapuram recently. Pic/AFP
Why is Rishabh Pant finding it more difficult to make a mark in white ball cricket than young bowlers? Is it because he is feeling the pressure of being hailed as the replacement for MS Dhoni? Or is he overawed by the likes of super bats Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma? Take the example of chinaman spinner Kuldeep Yadav and now left-arm pace bowler Khaleel Ahmed. The two have been increasing their profile with each game, so much so that Kuldeep has outshone Yuzvendra Chahal and is preferred in the XI ahead of the leg-spinner. Khaleel too could soon become an integral part of the Indian bowling attack.
On the other hand, Pant, after doing fairly well in Test cricket, has found life not so easy against the white ball. His failure in the two T20Is against the West Indies has some experts and his fans worried that the lad may not live up to his potential. He may also be flummoxed by Dinesh Karthik being preferred over him to keep wicket after Dhoni was dropped from the T20I squad. Some experts feel that if Pant is seen as a natural successor to Dhoni, then it should be him ‘keeping straightaway. He will then be more confident with the bat.
There is undoubtedly cutthroat competition for spots in the Indian team, especially in white ball cricket. Still certain amount of patience needs to be in place for a talent like Pant to blossom. His ardent fans believe that it is just a matter of an innings or two for things to fall in place. He has show enough potential in Test matches, and being a natural strokeplayer he ought to have taken to slam-bang variety rather easily. One of his ardent supporters tweeted: “He should focus on scoring runs even it is coming at a little low SR. But still he should play all the t20s and it’s just the matter of one innings.”
Another fan advised him: “#RishabhPant u should b stable, calm & patient…whn u start ur innings…” This tweet by a fan sums up the situation well: “Why would anyone hate #Pant .. he’s jus a kid.. I just think there’s certainly an air of discomfort because everyone adores #Dhoni.” Another one comes down heavily on impatient critics: “But isn’t this being a little too harsh on young #RishabhPant?”
Pant has surely not set the turf on fire in the shorter format of the game, as he averages just 20.5 in ODIs (41 runs in three matches) and 15.80 in T20I (79 runs in 6 games) compared to his average of 43.25 in five Test matches with an aggregate of 346, with one century and a couple of 90s. There is no doubt that these are early days for him and with ample opportunities and perseverance, he is bound to come good sooner or later. For that, the selectors and the team management need to show total confidence in him and not try to compare him with Dhoni at every step.
No. of runs scored by Rishabh Pant in six T20 Internationals