IND vs WI: Fans chanting 'MS Dhoni' is not respectful to Rishabh Pant, says Virat Kohli
India skipper Virat Kohli rallies behind underfire Rishabh Pant; urges spectators not to chant 'MS Dhoni in stands if the young wicketkeeper-batsman misses a chance.
Hyderabad: It wasn't that long back when Rishabh Pant loomed as the natural successor to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Fearless, dynamic and enterprising, the young man from Delhi cut a dashing figure in front of the stumps and a competent one behind it, appearing set for a long stint across formats.
Cricketing scripts, however, don't always pan out as per expectations. And thus, Pant now finds himself pushed to a corner.
Wriddhiman Saha has rightfully reclaimed the stumper's place in Test cricket; worse, Pant's white-ball credentials are also under scrutiny, particularly after a succession of underwhelming performances since being called up as Vijay Shankar's replacement midway through the World Cup in England last summer.
His recent form in Twenty20 internationals, especially, has been iffy. He has been dismissed for single-digit scores six times in his last nine digs, an unbeaten 65 against West Indies in Providence the lone bright spark.
His work behind the sticks too has been tentative, best exemplified by the stumping that wasn't of Liton Das in the Rajkot T20I last month when Pant illegally collected the ball in front of the stumps and whipped the bails off.
Amidst the censure and the brickbats, Pant found immense support from Virat Kohli on the eve of India's first T20I against West Indies in Uppal on Friday.
Springing to the defence of his young colleague, Kohli said on Thursday afternoon, "We certainly believe in Rishabh's ability. When you say it's the player's responsibility to work hard and perform, I agree. But it's the collective responsibility of everyone around as well to give that player some space to do so as well. If he misses a chance or something, people can't shout 'MS' in the stadium. It's not respectful, no player would like that to happen. If you're playing in your own country, you should get support.
"He needs to be left alone," Kohli emphasised. "We know he's a match-winner and once he comes good, you will see a different version of him—which you've seen in the IPL already because he's free, he's relaxed there, he feels that there's a lot more respect when it comes to his ability and what he can achieve for the team.
"He can't be isolated to an extent that he gets nervous on the field. If you want him to do well and win matches, all of us collectively need to make him feel like he belongs [here]. We're here to do things for him rather than against him."
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