Pant urged to match daredevil batting with discipline

Updated September 18, 2019

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MOHALI: Indian captain Virat Kohli takes part in a training session at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday, on the eve of the second T20 International against South Africa.—AFP
MOHALI: Indian captain Virat Kohli takes part in a training session at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday, on the eve of the second T20 International against South Africa.—AFP

MOHALI: India’s newly appointed batting coach Vikram Rathour has joined head coach Ravi Shastri in demanding more discipline from exciting wicket-keeper/batsman Rishabh Pant.

Pant’s six-hitting ability makes him a limited-overs asset, but Shastri in a recent interview said the 21-year-old’s penchant for throwing away his wicket has occasionally let the team down.

The Delhi youngster is perceived as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s natural successor in limited-overs cricket when the former captain eventually hangs up his gloves, but Rathour insisted Pant must improve his shot selection.

But the left-hander, who made his Test debut in England last year and scored his maiden century during the series, has often been accused of throwing away his wicket.

“Rishabh is a phenomenal player, no doubt about that,” Rathour told reporters in Mohali ahead of the second Twenty20 International against South Africa on Wednesday. ““He needs to be fearless because that is what makes him special. He is an impact player but at the same time he cannot afford to be careless. He needs to sort out his gameplan a little more. He needs to bring in a little bit of discipline to his cricket.”

With next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in mind, Rathour extended the message to all young members of the side that fearless cricket did not mean reckless cricket.

“What the team management is asking from them is fearless cricket - having clear gameplans and playing with intent, backing your strengths. At the same time, you cannot be careless,” the former India opener said. “I’m sure they are smart enough to understand that.”

India will also play three Tests against South Africa next month, when limited-overs stalwart Rohit Sharma may reinvent himself as an opener in the longest format.

Sharma smashed a record five centuries at this year’s 50-overs World Cup, but the white-ball stalwart has managed only 27 sporadic test appearances.

Rathour said 32-year-old Sharma has the game to succeed across formats, which would be a massive boost for the side.

“He has done so well as an opener in white ball cricket, so I don’t see any reason why he can’t do well in red ball cricket as well, provided we provide him enough opportunities,” Rathour said. “If he comes good, it will be a huge asset for the team. Somebody of his experience, the kind of cricket he plays — if he plays at the top of the order, it will be a huge thing.”

Virat Kohli’s India have focussed on T20s since their failure at the 50-over World Cup this year where they lost to New Zealand in the semi-finals.

The opening T20 of the three-match series against South Africa in Dharamsala on Sunday was abandoned because of rain.

“In the past T20 was not taken seriously. Now since you are preparing for the World Cup all these games are going to be extremely important,” said Rathour.

“And I think the next 20-21 games we will be playing will be our preparation for the World Cup.”

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019