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‘Will back him to the hilt’ – Shastri stands behind under-fire Pant

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

India coach Ravi Shastri has insisted that the team management will deal with under-fire ‘keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant with patience, calling him a “brutal match-winner” who will be “backed to the hilt”.

“Pant is different, he is world-class and is a brutal match-winner,” Shastri told Hindustan Times. “So the patience we will have with him is a lot. All your media reports and all the experts writing, but Pant is in great space with this Indian team.”

Shastri’s comments follow Yuvraj Singh’s plea to deal with Pant’s precocious talent carefully, urging the management to guide him, instead of pressuring the 21-year-old through public criticism. In his 10 ODI innings so far, Pant is yet to register a fifty-plus score, and managed a combined 58 runs in three Test innings on the Caribbean tour.

“Experts – they have a job, they can speak,” Shastri continued. “Pant is a special kid and he has already done enough. And he is only going to learn. This team management will back him to the hilt.”

The spotlight on Pant intensified after his dismissal in the semi-final of the World Cup against New Zealand. With India precariously hanging at 71-4 in their chase of 240, Pant, notorious for gifting away starts, slog-swept Mitchell Santner to deep midwicket after a well-made 32. It elicited widespread debate on Pant’s temperament from several ex-cricketers, including Kevin Pietersen, who tweeted right after the dismissal, terming it ‘pathetic’.

In fact, Shastri had previously stated that Pant would get a “rap on his knuckles” if he doesn’t improve his shot selection. Newly appointed batting coach Vikram Rathour had added that Pant’s batting cannot be “careless”.

Shastri clarified his previous remark, insisting that it is his job to point out mistakes to misfiring players, retaliating at reports of conflicting feedback within the management on Pant.

“Don’t say team management, I spoke about ‘the rap on the knuckles’. If someone goofs up, I have to pull them up. Am I there only to play the tabla?”

“But this guy is world-class, this guy can be destructive, can be a destroyer. And we will give him all the support that he needs to prosper in international cricket.”

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