India captain Virat Kohli has lamented a spell of pedestrian cricket inside 45 minutes that helped end their Cricket World Cup campaign against New Zealand in Manchester.
Ever since the Indian World Cup squad was announced the one constant point of discussion has been the omission of Rishabh Pant.
Yes, there has been talk about Ambati Rayudu missing out as well, but Pant has been the favourite for everyone, and the noise has only got louder.
I agree that Pant is an amazing talent – he’s a supremely talented batsman who has impressed one and all within just a year of playing Test cricket – but his omission is valid given what team management is scouting for.
Pant is a brilliant young player and for sure is the future of Indian batting in all formats. However, the one thing I am not convinced about is everyone trying to fit him into a finisher role. A finisher role in limited-overs format requires two completely different skill sets to be effective – one is providing the required impetus to get the team to a good total while batting first, and the second is playing at a right pace while chasing to finish games for your side.
While I agree that Pant can easily fit into the former when the team is batting first, I am afraid he is not there yet as a finisher while chasing.
While Pant is the replacement for MS Dhoni in the limited-overs format, we should not take it literally and expect him to do what Dhoni does so effectively. Dhoni was different. When he came in it felt as though he was always meant to be a finisher. Within a year he was winning games for the country, chasing some big totals with a mature head on his shoulders. Pant isn’t there yet and needs time before he can get there.
That’s the reason he missed out on the selection for the World Cup. In the current scenario the best value you can get of him in the limited-over format is at the top of the order. He can bat at No. 4 or even open the batting in the future. Effectively he can be the floater in the batting line-up that can be used based on the situation of the game. That will give him the freedom to go after the bowling without the pressure of trying to preserve his wicket.
Pant is just 21 and trying to pigeonhole him into a role where he isn’t yet that comfortable could completely destroy his potential and his ability to effectively contribute to the team’s success. While the experts are right about his potential, their premise for the argument is wrong.
We could see the effect of the same in the recently concluded Australian series, in which he was trying things he wasn’t comfortable doing. We need to give him space and provide him with the freedom to express himself as we have done in the Test format.
I am not saying Pant can never be a finisher in ODIs – he will get there in the future, but he isn’t there yet.