With the T20 World Cup just over a year away, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, the India captain and coach, have laid out their expectations from Rishabh Pant.
The wicketkeeper-batsman’s shot selection has been under the scanner. While reiterating his faith in Pant’s talent and destructive ability, Shastri said some of his decisions had let the team and himself down.
“When you see a shot like the one in Trinidad, off the first ball, [it’s disappointing],” Shastri said in an interview to Star Sports, referring to Pant skipping down the track to Fabian Allen in India’s third ODI against West Indies in Port-of-Spain, only to mis-time his loft to mid-off.
“He tries to repeat it a couple of times and gets out, he will be told,” Shastri said. “There will be a rap on the knuckles there – talent or no talent – because you are letting the team down, forget letting yourself down. You are letting the team down in a situation where you have the captain at the other end [Kohli was at the crease when Pant got out with India needing 164 off 22.3 overs]. You have a target to chase where the need of the hour is some sensible cricket.”
That innings was Pant’s second first-ball duck of the tour to the West Indies. In the first T20I in Lauderhill, he top-edged a slog sweep off Sunil Narine.
“No one will change his style but match awareness becomes crucial, shot selection becomes crucial in particular situations,” Shastri went on. “If he can fathom that out, he could be unstoppable. You mentioned how many games [it would take], it could be one game, it could be four games. I don’t see more than that. He will learn. He has played enough IPL cricket. So it’s time now for him to step on to the stage and just show the world how devastating he is.”
“There will be a rap on the knuckles there – talent or no talent – because you are letting the team down, forget letting yourself down.”
Ravi Shastri on Rishabh Pant
Kohli said the expectation was not for Pant to change his approach and natural game, but to read situations better.
“Expectations are only of reading situations,” Kohli said in the same interview. “You don’t expect a guy to play according to what you might be thinking. It’s about analysing the situation and finding your own way of dealing with the situation. Someone like Rishabh might hit five boundaries in a difficult situation compared to me who likes to take ones and twos and get out of it. So everyone has their own game. But reading the situation and decision-making is the expectation from all the players, including myself.”
India’s calendar is geared towards preparing the team for the T20 World Cup, and while there is likely to be an effort at widening the pool and giving opportunities to potential candidates, Kohli said that those aiming to make a mark couldn’t expect more than about five games to do so.
“Youngsters are being pushed into the side from time to time because you need to figure out who are the people who have the mentality, the mindset and the character to take the [team’s] vision forward,” Kohli said. “We hope they establish themselves and grab those chances. From the team and the management point of view, we are clear on the fact that you will get about five opportunities and you have to make the most of it. That’s the level we are playing at.
“I think the individuals coming in need to have that mindset. The guys who grab those opportunities quickly, they just grab the opportunities. It’s a delicate balance to strike but it’s necessary because you have 30 matches and you have to figure it out how much time each individual can be given.”
Shastri felt that a pool of approximately 18 players to choose from should be the target immediately before the T20 World Cup. “I would say a pool of 18 players [would be ideal],” Shastri said. “We already have 15, so if you get another three from the outside in that span, you have got your pool. But the important thing is to be prepared to invest, not be scared that you might lose an odd game or two.”