Rishabh Pant has managed only four scores in excess of 30 in his 18-match T20I career so far, but the young left-hander can take some solace from the fact that Rohit Sharma, arguably the best white-ball player in contemporary cricket, had only five such scores at the same stage of his progression, and it was the Mumbai batsman whom Pant picked out to seek guidance after a training session on Tuesday.
Pant has had more downs than ups in the shortest format for India, with his last nine T20Is seeing him score less than five six times with the unbeaten 65 in the last T20I against West Indies in Guyana his highest score.
As the Indian team gets ready to face South Africa in the second T20I at the IS Bindra Stadium on Wednesday, the team management would hope Pant puts on the kind of show he does in IPL, where he has scored 488 runs and 684 respectively in the last two seasons.
With the think tank showing faith in Pant’s wicketkeeping abilities as well for this series, batting coach Vikram Rathour advised him to think his innings through before going out in the middle.
“I think he is a phenomenal player. There is no doubt about that. But what he needs to do is to sort his game plan. He needs to be more disciplined and all the young players like him need to understand that there is a fine line between fearless cricket and careless cricket. What the team management is asking from them is to be fearless. About having a clear game plan and playing with intent. Focus should be batting to your strength and at the same time, one cannot be careless. I am sure they have started to understand that,” said Rathour.
Talking of careless batting, it has seen Pant trying to go after West Indies spinner Fabian Allen off the first ball he faced with India still needing 162 runs in the third ODI at Port of Spain.
Last week, head coach Ravi Shastri referred to that innings and said, “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,” Shastri had said in Dharamshala, telling his young gun that it’s time to step up.
Rathour believes Pant needs to harness his strokeplay to get the best out of his game.
“Of course we want Rishabh to play all his shots. He needs to be fearless because that’s what makes him special. He is an impact player. At the same time, he cannot afford to be careless. That’s all. He need to understand the difference between that,”
Chance for Iyer and Pandey
With Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey getting opportunities in the middle order in the West Indies, the duo will also aim to cement their spots in the Indian team for the long term.
Iyer, who scored two half-centuries against West indies A before knocks of 71 and 65 in the last two ODIs for the senior team, looks set to end India’s middle-order problems in the T20 format.
Rathour felt both Iyer and Pandey need more consistency. “Shreyas had a good start in West Indies and Manish too has done well in the past and made a comeback after a long time. The selectors have picked them for the middle order and they have the ability to be very successful at this level. Basically, it is for them to come good.
“As a coach, we will be backing them and making them prepare well for all situations. And back them to perform. I am sure they can fit in this role.”
It will be a sort of homecoming for Rathour, who returns to his home ground as India’s batting coach. The Himachal Pradesh-born former India cricketer took over from Sanjay Bangar. “Fortunately I have been in the system since long, first as a selector, and have seen all these players and interacted with them. So it’s nothing different. Coaching is something which I have loved and the way things are looking in the Indian team, I am excited about the role,” he shared.
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