Why is Rishabh Pant keen on squandering his chances to play for India? It is a question that has grappled many fans since the first-ball six he hit on his Test debut in England a couple of months back.
It was a shot of defiance. He went against the norm set in cricket. In that one act, he made a statement. Why should cricket be played by set notions? May be he felt that settling in first and then playing your shots is an ancient concept that he is not bound by. In the immediate aftermath of that one hit, many fans including this writer wondered if the game had changed to such an extent that this theory was accurate.
Ironically, though, it is Pant and his want to play to the gallery which is dispelling the same notion he helped to set in motion with his six down the ground in Nottingham back in August.
Sure, there have been some impressive knocks in the middle – his gritty 114 in the final Test of his debut series still sticks out. The two knocks of 92 during the Tests against West Indies were also eye-catching.
However, despite his aggressive style of batting, the 21-year-old has yet to register an innings of caliber in both the limited-overs formats for India.
In six T20Is so far, Pant has averaged just 15.80. In ODIs, he averages at a slightly better tally of 20.50 from three matches. The youngster has been given an extended run in the ongoing limited-overs leg of West Indies’ tour of India. The series is being used to finalise a second wicket-keeper for the upcoming 2019 Men’s ODI World Cup in England.
It has been lukewarm outing for him so far. His downfall can be largely attributed to due to his own devices. The want to be flashy has invariably led to his dismissal.
While it is thrilling to see a youngster come down the ground and hoick a bowler for a six, it is not a pretty sight in cricket when a batsman fails to keep the bigger picture in mind.
In the ongoing T20I series against the West Indies, Pant has holed out in both games. Poor shot selection has been his biggest bane. In the first game, he departed after scoring 1 runs in four deliveries. On Tuesday, during India’s 71-run victory in Lucknow, he fell for 5, lasting all of six balls. His tendency to play cross-batted at times isn’t restricted to the shortest format and was on display during the ODIs as well. In three matches against West Indies, Pant scored 41 runs in two innings before being dropped for the final two games.
In a bilateral series with no real context or relevance, such dismissals don’t always matter. But during the World Cup when the stakes are infinitely higher, these mistakes will stick out and could cost India dearly.
Pant is on a comeback of sorts. He had first made an appearance in India’s T20I outfit at home against England in 2017. But was subsequently left out as the team balance was more or less sorted with MS Dhoni manning the stumps. The scenario has changed in a year. Dhoni was sidelined for the limited-overs leg of the West Indies series as the selectors wanted to try out Dinesh Karthik and Pant as potential candidates for the slot of the second wicket-keeper in India’s World Cup squad.
So far, Karthik has been preferred over Pant to keep wickets restricting the latter to show off his wares only in the capacity of a batsman.
Opportunities don’t come easily at this level – as Karthik will only be happy to point out to the Delhi lad. Pant is one of the most talented cricketers in the country and has already proved that he belongs at the highest level. That is also why one hopes that the team management recognises his shortcomings and addresses them sooner rather than later.