Leave Pant alone, implores India’s stand-in captain Rohit

MUMBAI: Critics of India’s Rishabh Pant must leave the young wicketkeeper batsman alone and let him play with freedom, stand-in captain Rohit Sharma said on Saturday. The 22-year-old has received lots of flak lately from India’s coaching staff, pundits and the media after losing his wicket through loose shots and his position in the India test side has been taken by fit-again Wriddhiman Saha. Former Australia batsman Dean Jones told Reuters this week that Pant needs to improve his off-side game if he wants to graduate from being a one-trick pony.

“There is a lot of talk happening about Rishabh Pant every day, every minute,” Rohit, who is leading the hosts in place of rested regular captain Virat Kohli, told reporters ahead of Sunday’s deciding final Twenty20 International against Bangladesh at Nagpur. “I just feel that he needs to be allowed to do what he wants to do on the field. I would request everyone to just keep their eyes away from Rishabh Pant for a while.” Pant was perceived as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s natural successor in limited overs cricket for India when the former captain eventually hangs up his gloves and till recently was the preferred choice behind the stumps in all three formats.

He played 11 tests in the absence of the injured Saha and used his chances well, hitting a century in an Oval test against England last year while smashing an unbeaten 159 versus Australia in Sydney in January. His ability makes him a limited-overs asset, but coach Ravi Shastri and Vikram Rathour were skeptical about his style of play. — AFP