Swashbuckling batsman Rishabh Pant was trending on social media on Thursday morning, a few hours after India, riding on Virat Kohli’s 43rd hundred (114*) and Shreyas Iyer’s second successive fifty (65), crushed the West Indies by six wickets in Port of Spain to win the three-match ODI series 2-0. The first ODI was a wash out after just 13 overs in the Windies innings.
Pant was trending not for his golden duck but for the reckless shot that led to his dismissal while batting against left-arm spinner Fabian Allen.
Before the ICC Cricket World Cup in England, fans cried and set #WhereIsPant trending on social media.
Close to a month and six matches (three T20Is and 3 ODIs against the West Indies) later, the same followers are crying again. This time, it’s #NoMorePant.
From being touted as the future No. 4 for all his aggressive batting and extravagant stroke play with youth on his side, he has become a major flop at the most crucial position, courtesy his multiple failures.
Pant’s non-performance at No. 4 not only has opened the debate again but also has opened the gate for another player to claim the key spot.
And the player who can stake a claim is none other than Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer.
While there may be some more time for another limited overs series for India – they will now be playing the West Indies in Tests – Kohli can now relax and put in a word in Iyer’s ears that he is the one that he is looking for after testing several batsmen for No. 4.
Iyer, who hit 71 in the second ODI, once again impressed with his 41-ball 65 that included three boundaries and five massive sixes at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad.
His 120-run stand for the fourth wicket with captain Kohli following Pant’s dismissal only stated the fact that a talented Iyer should have got the opportunities much earlier and not ignored after making his debut in 2017.
For the record, in seven innings from nine ODIs, Iyer has 346 runs at 49.42 and scored four half-centuries with a highest of 88 in his second appearance against Sri Lanka in Mohali.
“Shreyas has come along really well, he’s just stepped in and played with a lot of confidence and I think that augurs really well for the team. He’s presented a strong case for himself to be a strong contender and a regular feature in the middle order if he keeps continuing to play like that and take responsibility in that manner,” Kohli said after the match.
“Both times he was batting with me, I had been around for a while but he wasn’t intimidated at all, he was very confident, very sure of his game. That’s great to see and hopefully, as I said, he builds on to this and keeps performing like this for the team.”
Seeing Iyer’s confidence and fearless attitude at the crease might have impressed captain Kohli now, but the Mumbai batsman has always played the game in a similar manner for his state in Ranji Trophy. His fearless approach has intimidated the bowlers in domestic cricket. He doesn’t shy away from taking them to the cleaners and knows how to take the team out of precarious situations, which he has done for Mumbai, a lot.
“He understood the value of performing in these situations and it will only boost his confidence further,” said Kohli. “I was exactly the same when I came in, any opportunity I got I wanted to win games for my team and play according to the situation. You have to take risks — he was brave under pressure — you need to reveal your game, you need to realise who you are, what your game is, what kind of player you are. I think he’s heading in the right direction,” the skipper added.
It would be extremely wrong to call for the head of Pant from the team especially after investing in him so much. Rather the skipper should use him at the death and dare him to take on the bowlers.
As far as No. 4 goes, Iyer is the one that Kohli has been looking for, for long. And he deserves a long run there.