Rishabh Pant has the big game but expecting the youngster to deliver from the start in an event like the World Cup perhaps is not the right thing to do, feels India's vice-captain Rohit Sharma. The Delhi left-hander's exclusion from the playing XI at the expense of Vijay Shankar had been hotly-debated and Rishabh did show some spunk in his 32 even though his inexperience in crunch situations once again came to the fore.
Asked if he was surprised to see Rishabh at the critical No 4 position when an in-form Hardik Pandya was more suitable for the role, Rohit's answer, after a mini pause, was laced with sarcasm. "Not really because all you guys wanted Rishabh Pant to play, right. All you guys, right, from India? Where is Rishabh Pant? Where is Rishabh Pant? There he is at Number 4," Rohit's said, probably conveying a subtle message to the media.
Rohit feels Rishabh certainly does need a bit more confidence while going for the big hits. "He just needs confidence because, obviously, playing his first game, expecting a lot is not right at the moment from him, but he should just come and play and enjoy his cricket. When he does that, he will do well," he said.
However, Rohit, who shared a half-century partnership with Rishabh, is aware that the young southpaw will need a bit of time in the next few games before something big can be expected of him. "I think, for someone like him (Rishabh) also to come and play, he needs to spend some time in the middle and see what the pitch is doing, get used to the condition as quickly as possible," he said.
"So I think it was the right move for him to come at that number (4) because, again, we know what he can do with the bat," the senior pro added. However, there was some confusion among the media when Rohit said Vijay Shankar didn't play this match as he hurt his the toe after being hit by a Jasprit Bumrah delivery in the nets.
But in reality, Shankar got hit by a Bumrah yorker before the Afghanistan game and on Sunday he was seen sprinting with bats and drinks for the on-field players. Rohit made the statement when asked whether he feels uncertainty has persisted over the crucial no 4 position. "There is no uncertainty. I mean, I thought we made it very clear at the start that Vijay (Shankar) would play, but before the game he got a toe issue. He got hit on his toe by Jasprit in the net session, so he was not fully fit for this particular game. Again, every team will have one or two or three unsettled players. That is what it is," he reasoned.
Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal had their first poor outing in tandem in the tournament but Rohit defended the duo. "When Kuldeep and Chahal came to bowl, they already got off to a decent start, and they didn't allow them to settle down, which was, I think, a tactical move from their side against our two spinners," he said in their defence.
"But it was just an off day for these two guys. We have seen them bowl in tandem really well and put pressure on the batting unit, the opposition rather. Like I said, the England team, they played complete cricket. They bowled really well. They batted really well. They got the result."