What’s the story?
India’s young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has played down comparisons with MS Dhoni and clarified that he is only concentrating on delivering good performances across all formats of the game, especially the T20 format and the IPL so that he can establish himself as a regular for Team India in the near future.
“I don’t think much about all the comparisons. My focus has always been playing cricket and doing well. I just need to grab the chances and prove my mettle. IPL is a brilliant platform. We have seen people gaining attention by playing in IPL,” said Pant.
Unwilling to get dragged into the debate surrounding the questionable decision by the Delhi Daredevils team management to bat Pant in the lower middle order, the youngster claimed that the onus was on him to deliver with the bat, no matter where he bats.
“My role in the team is to score runs and give my best when on the field. It doesn’t matter at which number I am batting,” he said. “Right now, my team demands that I finish the games batting in the middle order. The T20 format is tricky, and you have to deliver whether you play in the top order or middle order.”
Despite criticism from various quarters, the Delhi think-tank comprising Rahul Dravid, under whom Pant made tremendous progress as an Under-19 cricketer, and Paddy Upton, has refused to bat the 19-year-old higher up the order for the Zaheer Khan led side.
There have been quite a few odd calls by the Delhi franchise in the 2017 IPL with the decision to promote Angelo Mathews ahead of the hard-hitting Chris Morris when 87 runs were required off 40 balls in the fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad earlier on in the season earning plenty of brickbats for Dravid & co.
The one decision that has the critics particularly wound up is the team’s unwillingness to promote Pant higher up the order to perhaps even open the batting along with Sanju Samson instead of Sam Billings.
Interestingly, Billings was one of the first to suggest that Pant will be Dhoni’s long-term successor in the Indian cricket team.
The heart of the matter
While the innovative style of captaincy by Zaheer Khan has earned plenty of praise, Delhi Daredevils have been unable to translate the effort into success on the field with much of the blame being laid on the team management’s inability to make the most out of a talented bunch of players, featuring many promising youngsters like Pant, Samson and Shreyas Iyer.
After making a promising start to the campaign, Delhi have lost five matches on the trot with the latest humbling coming at the hands of Kings XI Punjab, losing the match by 10 wickets after being bundled out for a paltry total of 67.
While critics have been unrelenting in their calls to promote Pant up the order, the youngster is ready to perform for the side no matter where he is asked to bat. He enjoyed a stellar 2016-17 domestic campaign ultimately becoming the youngest Indian to represent the side in a T20 international when he made his debut against England earlier this year.
He was also named as the skipper of Delhi for the Vijay Hazare Trophy thus adding weight to his comparisons with a young MS Dhoni – something the youngster is not keen on paying much attention to. For now, Pant is simply focussed on letting his bat do the talking for him and is eager to stop the rot for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL and get the team off the bottom of the points table.
Delhi’s chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the tenth edition of the IPL have been dealt a major blow with Sunday’s defeat to Kings XI Punjab.
The team are in dire need of some inspiration to change their fortunes around and will take on defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in their next fixture on Tuesday.
Pant is one of India’s most promising youngsters out there and has been earmarked as a potential skipper for the future. However, it is too early to talk about comparisons with Dhoni and it will only help Pant if he is allowed to play his natural game without any unwanted pressure.
With their chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the competition growing slimmer by the day, it is imperative that Delhi make changes to their team combination and as suggested by the critics, shuffle up the batting order. There is no harm in trying Pant higher up the order and it will help the youngster to play his shots with the field up if he is made to open the batting.