Rishabh Pant scored an unbeaten 33 in the second T20 International against the West Indies, which India lost by eight wickets, in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. The young wicketkeeper-batsman had managed a score of 18 in the series opener in Hyderabad on Friday, following a total of 33 runs in the recent three-T20I series against Bangladesh and 23 in two-T20I series against South Africa. With 2020 T20 World Cup approaching, 21-year-old Rishabh Pant has come under tremendous pressure to save his place in the team as experienced MS Dhoni is currently on a sabbatical from cricket and India seek a perfect combination for the mega event, to be played in Australia from October 18 to November 15.
Legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara backed Rishabh Pant by saying that he is “a totally different player” than MS Dhoni and should be allowed to mature with time.
“Rishabh Pant came into the game creating a lot of excitement, he had a lot of aggression and the Indian public expects someone to replace (MS) Dhoni immediately and in the same fold but he is a totally different player,” Lara said while speaking at a show.
“I know the time is critical with the World Cup just 8 or 9 months away and they may even go with another keeper but the excessive pressure on him is unnecessary,” he added.
Lara was on the same page with Indian captain Virat Kohli in support of Pant. “I agree with captain Virat Kohli on supporting Pant as this is a very successful Indian team and I remember the West Indies team 30 years ago we had guys in there who weren’t performing well but they were kept in the team because the team was doing very well and we had all the great players but you never heard about Gus Logie or Carl Hooper because they weren’t doing that well but they were allowed to mature and I feel Rishabh Pant should be allowed to mature,” he said.
In the recent T20I series against Bangladesh, Pant was mocked by the spectators with chants of “Dhoni, Dhoni”.
Kohli came out in support of Pant, saying such an act is “not respectful” and it’s a “collective responsibility for everyone around” to help the wicketkeeper-batsman improve.
“We certainly believe in Rishabh’s ability. As you say, it’s (also) the player’s responsibility to do well, but our responsibility is to give him space, to support him. He should get support and it is disrespectful if you don’t get it,” Kohli had said at a press conference.
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen joined Lara in backing of Pant saying: “If you look at all the mistakes he (Pant) has made and the position he is in, with the team and Virat backing him and with MS out at the moment, he does have a long way to go.”
“He will be looked upon on his performance and he is 21, so will he be able to buy the time to be an absolute superstar in Indian cricket is what we need to see, and I think he actually can,” he added.
The third and final T20I of the three-match series will be played in Mumbai on Wednesday.