One of the non-stop talking points in Indian cricket these days is, apart from MS Dhoni’s future, Rishabh Pant’s temperament. Every time he walks out to bat these days, the focus is well and truly on how he will go about his innings. Will it be wham-bham? Will he show restraint? Should he curb his natural enthusiasm to play the big shots? Should he back his instincts?
A 21-year-old with unquestionable talent, has come under the scanner [none more so when he played that slog sweep in the World Cup semi-final] repeatedly already in an embryonic career.
But if you ask Indian captain what he expects from a swashbuckling player like Pant, the answer is simple.
“The only expectation from Rishabh is that he read situations well,” the Indian captain told Star Sports in an interview ahead of the start of the home season. “We don’t expect him to play the way you might be thinking. It is about analysing a situation and dealing with it in your own way.”
“Someone like Rishabh will hit five boundaries in a difficult situation compared to me, who likes to take a singles or twos and get out of it. Everyone has their own game but reading the situation and decision-making is an expectation from everyone in the team, not just Rishabh,” Kohli added.
Head coach Ravi Shastri, however, gave further insights into how the management deals with a talent as mercurial as Pant. The former India cricketer made it clear that his style will never be compromised.
“No one will even think of changing his style,” Shastri said in the same interview. “Like Virat said, reading the situation, match-awareness and shot-selection becomes crucial. If he can fathom that, he could be unstoppable. It could take one game, it could take four games. He has played so much IPL cricket, he will learn. It’s time now for him to step up and show devastating he cane be.”
Shastri referred to an incident during the recent tour of West Indies. For the second time on the tour, Pant was dismissed for a golden duck: this time around, in the second ODI played in Trinidad. India were chasing 256 in a ran-hit encounter. Pant walked out to bat at No 4, as he has in white-ball cricket since he came into the side at the World Cup. And, with a well-set Kohli at the other end, he played a rash shot and holed out off the first ball he faced. This, after he was out first ball in the first T20I of the tour as well.
Shastri said, as the coach, that’s the sort of thing he will be told to cut out from his game.
“We’ll let him be but at times when you see a shot, like the first ball dismissal in Trinidad, if he repeats that, then he will be told. There will be a rap on the knuckles, talent or no talent. As simple as that. Because you are letting the team down, forget letting yourselves down. In a situation where you have the captain at the other end, a target to chase, the need of the hour is sensible cricket,” he said.
For his part, the Delhi batsman has said on multiple occasions that he does not want to be distracted by the talk of being MS Dhoni’s successor and comparisons with the former captain but he would do well to learn the art of decision-making from him.