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It's time for India’s cricket fraternity to back Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant’s mental strength will be key as he deals with a rough patch — and realises sports is as much about failure as success. For motivation, he has to only look at Kohli & Rohit. Meanwhile, the cricket fraternity should back him up. This ...

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Nov 11, 2019, 11.45 PM IST
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Rishabh Pant (File Pic)
By Boria Majumdar

Everything that can go wrong with Rishabh Pant has gone wrong in the last two months.

After a rather special series in Australia and an equally good IPL, Pant was the toast of the cricketing world. However, a rank bad shot in the semi-final against New Zealand in the World Cup when he had the opportunity to make it count made Pant the target of trolls and naysayers. He was, within days, the brash, pampered and overhyped youngster who was being persisted with when a legend in MS Dhoni can still be called upon for a year or more.

Yes, Pant played a bad shot in the semi-final and he has indeed made some basic mistakes in the last few games. The fluffed stumping of Liton Das and the way he was bowled in the final T-20 against Bangladesh in Nagpur is indicative Pant is under pressure. He is trying to be over cautious and trying to do things differently. His honeymoon in international cricket is over and Pant, more than anyone else, will know that his spot is under the scanner.

That’s where we, India’s cricket fraternity, have a responsibility towards Pant. It will unnerve anyone if, after a missed opportunity or a wrong DRS call, the whole stadium starts chanting ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’. MSD is a legend and Pant is very much a product in the making. No one doubts that and it is fair to say these comparisons are not warranted. We don’t want Pant to be another Dhoni. He can’t. And he knows that well. All we want Pant to do is do justice to his talent. From here on, it is all about Pant and how strong he is in the mind. That he has talent is known and that he has ability was visible in England and Australia when he scored two magnificent Test match hundreds. But what is not known is how he will deal with failure. How will he deal with making basic mistakes and making wrong DRS calls time and again? How will he come to terms with the fact that he always has an MS Dhoni to contend with and each mistake will be amplified in the media and calls made to get Dhoni back? How will he deal with trolls who will call him overrated and overhyped?

This is what international sport is all about. It isn’t about success and more success. Rather, it is about failure and how an aspiring youngster deals with a string of low scores. There will be many more failures than successes and only the strong will survive to make it big. That’s what it is all about for Pant at the moment. And in seeking role models, all he has to do is see his captain and vicecaptain. Pant needs to seek out Virat Kohli and ask him about Perth 2012. Mired with self-doubt after multiple failures in Melbourne and Sydney, Kohli had receded into a cocoon trying to answer the hardest question for himself: Was he good enough to belong at the highest stage of all? A gritty 75 in the second innings in Perth on a pace-conducive pitch at the WACA restored a measure of his self-confidence, but it was the century in Adelaide that changed him as a cricketer forever. Summing up the innings. Kohli said, “I finally felt vindicated that I did have the ability to score runs at the big stage.”

Pant needs to do the same. It is time he cocoons himself and stays off social media for a while. It is more a battle in the mind than anywhere else. He is clearly good enough to smack Soumya Sarkar out of the park and do what Shreyas did in Nagpur. He has done it so many times in the IPL. But, not at the moment. A cluttered mind is a devil’s workshop and Pant’s batting is all about freedom and flair. It is as if he is being caged with every failure and it is entirely upon himself to set himself free. Like Virat in 2012, Rohit did it in World Cup 2019. A modest IPL and questions were asked of the Indian vicecaptain. The answer was five hundreds. He has followed it up with three more in the red ball format against South Africa, making 2019 Rohit Sharma’s year.

It is important for us to back Rishabh Pant up and leave him alone. While we need not support him all the time, we can surely stop comparing him to MSD, for the comparison is both unfair and ridiculous. Sachin had never approved of a comparison with Sunil Gavaskar and Virat has always tried to cocoon himself from comparisons with Sachin.

That’s what Pant and his support team needs to do. Sport is the only medium that allows one to fail in public and, thereafter, come back and succeed in public. Pant has now experienced failure. With time, he will experience success as well. And in doing so, he will be a better cricketer and a better human being. On our part, we just need to let him be.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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