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Don’t try to make a shirt out of Pant.

by Gaurav Sethi

You can tell when a cricketer is being hunted - be it by his own demons or those belonging to the system and its hunting dogs.

The system, what’s that? It’s most of us really. From the chorus of Dhoni! Dhoni! whenever Pant slips, to Head coach, Ravi Shastri going public with his criticism of Pant’s approach or lack thereof.

To Sanjay Manjrekar, who has made no bones of airing his displeasure on commentary while watching Pant bat – in the first T20, when Pant lifted a slow bouncer over the keeper’s head for four, Manjrekar fixated on the lack of grace in the shot. Forget batting, Manjrekar wants Pant to work on his ballet.

But these are opinions, of common people, of those in team management and of those in air.

And there’s only one way for Pant to shut them all up, and it’s down to one of his coach’s favourite clichés – he has to make his bat do the talking.

Till recently, in the build-up to this season’s IPL, Rishabh Pant was to the manor born. He was the face of choice, the daredevil who took on Kohli and Dhoni in somewhat audacious ads. It obviously did give him some entitlement – you have to be inhuman to not feel elevated taking on Kohli and Dhoni, albeit in ads.

But that was that. And starting with those cheeky ads, things started to go downhill. Pant had had a spectacular 2018 season – 2019 paled in comparison. More so, as the expectations were far more, and he was now a key player in the mix, perhaps his franchise’s most vital batsman.

While Pant was still striking at 162, he was down from 173 in 2018 -  488 runs in 16 matches, down from 684 in 14. Averaging 37.5, down from  52.6.


It didn’t take much to hurl a comparison with Dhoni at Pant. Pant wasn’t competing with himself, he was up against Dhoni lore.

In one over, man of the match, Mushfiqur Rahim was LBW twice – it’s just that India failed to review. But where does the mind travel to – Dhoni of course. Dhoni the champion, tactical reviewer – the man who Kohli turns to, the man who makes the final call with the slightest of pokerfaced nods.

Instead, here was India, with Pant. So what if captain, Rohit Sharma was at first slip, and Yuzvendra Chahal was bowling.

Rohit, 32, with 99 T20Is. Chahal, 29, with 32 T20Is. Pant? Pant, 22 last month, 21 T20Is.

Add to that, an uncertain Pant, when asked by his captain about an edge, answered in the affirmative – review lost.

But before all this was Pant the batsman – and before that were two batsmen, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul striking below 100.

But somehow both Manjrekar and Gavaskar decided to be highly vocal in blaming Pant for Dhawan’s run out.

That very Dhawan who had earlier in the innings blindly sauntered for a non-existent single, only to jog back like a senior citizen. That very Dhawan who had hijacked the innings till the 15th over, for a mind-numbing 41(42). That very Dhawan who continues to rake in T20s because of his ODI reputation. That very Dhawan who last scored a half century 12 T20I innings back.

But also that very Dhawan who notched five 50s in IPL ’19 – and can be a one-man army in winning tournaments.

Meanwhile, best not to forget, that this was still the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch. You can call the stadium what you want, but this pitch was Kotla all the way.

Misread the pace, think it’s an imposter and you’ll be fooling yourself.

In the end, Rishabh Pant batted with the knowledge that a headmaster’s ruler isn’t far from his fingertips. He also batted with the same knowledge as KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan did before him – this is the Kotla. Far too many teams, Delhi Daredevils especially, have been knocked over for sub 100 scores here. To aim for 120-130, and then go all out in the last few with wickets in hand is possibly the best way forward.

Shreyas Iyer did what he often does at the Kotla – go at the spinners. But even he fell to a spinner.

Finally, Pant finished with three 4s, the most by an Indian batsman, his strike rate was just a shade over 100.

Even VVS Laxman who rarely if ever criticizes any Indian batsman felt Pant needs to work on his singles early on.

It may not be wrong to say, here at least, he learns from the best in the business – Dhoni, who else.

Or is everyone too blind-sighted to see the dot-ball collective at the start of a Dhoni innings?

But no, when Dhoni does it, it’s with the knowledge that he will accelerate later on. When Pant does it, even if it’s the Kotla, it’s just a free for all for meme wallahs.


Players like KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya could well be easy targets for the media. But each one still has the wherewithal to be a once in a generation limited overs’ player.  More so, T20 masters.

India sadly lacks such players – over the years, they have embraced ODI batsmanship far more readily, possibly because the very format is an ode to the Dhoni and Kohli schools of cricket.

T20 however, much as it can be programmed, also demands something far more impulsive, almost manic. Surely not in all 6-7 batsmen, but having the oddball Mad Max is where you toast the very format.

And Ravi boss, you can’t throw caution to the winds without factoring in failure. Accepting the latter will help you tap into the best of your players. Unless you want all your batsmen to bat like each other.


India and Delhi Capitals will be best served not to try and make a shirt out of Pant. Isn’t it obvious, he was not meant to be top half material. As they say, the fun starts when Pant comes down.

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