Young Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant has responded to criticism regarding his limited-overs batting by saying that he has earned his spot in the national team rather than someone gifting it to him on a platter.
In a recent interview with Bombay Times, Pant talked about comparisons with the legendary MS Dhoni, his experience of playing the World Cup 2019 and the famous ‘babysitter’ banter with Australian Test captain Tim Paine.
“I do think about the comparison with Dhoni sometimes, but it’s too difficult. If I am learning from him, I can’t possibly think that I can be in his league overnight. I am just trying to learn from him. I consider him my mentor. He has taught me so many things be it how to work on my batting or mindset before I go to bat, and most importantly, keeping calm in pressure situations.
“At 21, if I start thinking that I have to fill Dhoni’s shoes, it will get very difficult for me. I just try to keep it simple. I want to play the game to the best of my ability and learn from everyone around me, especially my seniors,” Pant said in the interview.
After making his debut with the Indian T20I side in 2017, Pant has become the 1st choice wicketkeeper in Tests for the team, having scored hundreds in England and Australia. However, after being called to the Indian ODI team during the World Cup, Pant has been criticized for not having played the kind of match-defining innings which many expected from him.
Pant responded to his doubters by saying that he has earned his place in the team and ‘nobody has gifted that’ to him.
“It’s good for a player to get an early break. Besides, I am not getting anything for free. I have worked hard and earned my place in the Indian cricket team. Nobody has gifted that to me.
“Koi nahi bolta ke, Bhai team mein aaja’. Aisa nahi hota hai. If you don’t perform well, you won’t be selected. It’s as simple as that. Everyone has to justify their spot in the team,” said Pant.
The 21-year-old also said that he hadn’t expected to make it into the World Cup side ‘as a wild-card entry’ after initially being ignored when the 15-member squad was announced in April 2019.
“I didn’t expect to make it to the WC as a wild-card entry. I had hoped that I would make it to the final 15. I had worked for it. It was a dream come true to play the WC, but no, I never thought the opportunity would come like this. I was happy. I remember I was in my hometown Roorkee when I got a call from the BCCI saying, Just be ready. You may have to come to the UK, so be in Delhi’. I told them that I am in Delhi already (smiles!). I had an intuition that I will get that call,” said Pant.
Pant made headlines earlier this year when he got involved in a friendly but hilarious banter with Australian Test captain Tim Paine, with the latter cheekily trying to recruit him as a ‘babysitter’. Pant said that it was all in good humour as was evident when the left-hander posed for photos with Paine’s family later during the tour.
“I was laughing at it. I have no clue how he thought of calling me that. It was fun. When I met his family, his mother wanted a photo with me. His wife was standing around with their two kids. She asked me if she could also take a picture with me.
“I actually held one of the kids for the photograph, saying I can be their babysitter. She posted it on Instagram and it went viral. It was friendly banter. Also, whatever happens on the field stays on the field. I don’t take it home or hold grudges.
“I love the banter actually. I won’t ever start anything (sledging) first, but if someone pushes my limit, I have to give it back. I can’t just listen to anyone and keep quiet,” Pant signed off by saying.