When it comes off, it is wholesome entertainment – for those watching from the stands and for all those following the game on the idiot box. But then, when he does things like he did on Monday night, it can hurt his team badly and disappoint millions of fans. Yes, we’re talking about Rishabh Pant and his one-dimensional style of play.
The Delhi Capitals’ wicketkeeper-batsman is blessed with plenty of ability; he is among the fiercest strikers of the cricket ball in world cricket currently, and can win matches single-handedly. Just like he did against the Mumbai Indians in the first week of IPL 2019, or he did with his 92s in the two Test matches against the Windies last year.
On the flip side, there are days when he will do what he did on Monday night – play an ugly heave and lose his middle pole.
The worry for Indian cricket fans, when speaking about Rishabh Pant, is that there have been more days of the latter kind than days when he has played match-winning knocks.
On Monday night, the Delhi Capitals were cruising in their run-chase – with Pant and Colin Ingram in absolute control of proceedings. But Pant gave Kings XI Punjab an opening, which turned the match on its head. Delhi Capitals, who should have bossed the run-chase, ended up losing by 14 runs!
Some Shaw Concerns
That is not the case with Pant alone. Prithvi Shaw has racked up records; despite being among the youngest members of squad, he was named captain and led the Indian team to win in the Under-19 World Cup. The prodigious talent that he is, he also emulated and broke several of Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘youngest’ and ‘century on debut’ feats and records. It was only natural that following his sensational rise, he was rewarded with a place in the Indian cricket team. He made an instant mark there too – scoring a century on Test debut. He had a hundred for the taking in his second Test match too – but blew it, when he played a loose cover drive and picked out the fielder at extra cover.
Most recently, Shaw enthralled during his innings of 99 against the Kolkata Knight Riders. But he instinctively opted for a glory shot to get to a maiden hundred and holed out; that one stroke almost jeopardised his team’s win. The Delhi Capitals were cruising in their run-chase, and had a well-set Shaw been batting until the end, the match wouldn’t have had to be decided in the Super Over.
So often in cricket – particularly in the T20 format, matches turn upside down because of one poor decision. One bad shot – like Shaw’s against KKR or Pant’s against KXIP – can cost teams.
What use is it having all the talent in the world, if you cannot take sound decisions and use that talent efficiently. Players are always comfortable playing their natural game. But what about respecting the conditions, the opponent and the situation of the contest? Eventually, even in sport – as in businesses – it is about producing the results.
Time and again, Pant and Shaw have been guilty of playing just one way – play in overdrive mode. And that has been the undoing of both the batsmen.
Both players need to understand that whatever the format, they can afford to give themselves a few deliveries; they have so much skill that they can always make up for a quiet start.
They need to learn to read situations and evaluate risks against returns. They need to realise that in cricket, there are other ways to score runs too; it isn’t about hitting the fours and sixes all the time, or playing flashy eye-catching strokes. Pant and Shaw need to be told that runs accumulated through ones, twos and threes are still valuable to the team.
One of the characteristics of the better players is they know when to switch gears. Think MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma – they all know how and when to up the ante.
Important Not to Waste Opportunity
One of the biggest challenges sportsmen who play at the highest level face is to first understand their potential, and then milk it completely and convert it to performance. Pant and Shaw first need to appreciate their own potential and then work towards taking full toll of their potential. Right now, they're a lot of promise and a long way away from realising their entire potential.
Several individuals will ask not to be too harsh on the two youngsters – for they are still finding their feet and learning about the demands of playing at the highest level. But hey, when players graduate to play at the highest levels, they’re expected to be prepared to handle the pressures and expectations of playing at that level. Indian cricket fans, and fans of Delhi Capitals in this case, want their team to win every single match. And that, directly or indirectly, translates to wanting the players to perform every single match.
Fans will accept players’ and teams’ failures if they’re outplayed by their opponents, or have the rough end of the conditions. But fans will not tolerate it if batsmen don’t value their wickets, and bowlers and fielders don’t give it their absolute best all the time.
All we’re asking of youngsters such as Shaw and Pant is to apply themselves better. It is extremely frustrating to watch these two youngsters – blessed with so much talent – not value their wicket. Is it too much to ask them to apply better? A little bit of common sense please?
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