MS Dhoni's silence keeps tolling the bell for Rishabh Pant
Walking towards the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, one has to tread past the many shadows of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The legendary Indian may be absent from the team, but he isn’t going anywhere from the hungry minds of his legion of fans.
The young men and women walking up to the ground stopped in their tracks as soon as they sighted paint, wanting to ink their hero’s name on their cheeks and foreheads. It was a small note for each of them to declare their undying love for MSD, but their chorus was loud enough for everyone around the venue to hear in unison.
On the ground, Virat Kohli was indulging his boys in a training routine. It was a simple game: keep the football off the ground by working as a team. Rishabh Pant was in the group, flamboyant as always, offering his skipper some style and chutzpah.
But as soon as the drill was done to death, Kohli was out alone with Pant, throwing down balls for keeping practice off a small mat that gave the ball some teeth.
Admit it or not, Dhoni is the elephant in the room in Indian cricket. And everyone and their granny is aware of it.
Pant is in the Virender Sehwag school of cricket. See it, hit it is their credo, but unless you back that brand of intent with results, the pressure is bound to follow. And right now, the pressure is haunting the young man. Standing in the phantom shadow of Dhoni isn’t helping matters either.
The pressure valve is tightening with every match. Since that golden duck in Trinidad, Pant has been trying to underline his importance to the team. But sometimes, the harder you try, the harder you fail.
Kohli has the young man’s back for the moment. But as Ravi Shastri reminded Pant in unambiguous terms, letting the team down isn’t going to work. At least not for very long.
Either Pant has not paid heed, or the burden of expectations is weighing too heavy on his young mind. The young Indian squandered a great start in the final match of the series against South Africa. He hastened his exit after making just 19 runs, which was particularly jarring given his team needed far more than that.
There are reports that Dhoni has extended his break through November and will not be available for the T20Is against Bangladesh next. And if that is indeed the case, it will only serve to lengthen his shadows around India’s field of cricket.
Even though one may argue that Dhoni isn’t serving Indian cricket well by feeding the dogs more meat, the BCCI and the selectors aren’t helping either by singing along with this growing cacophony of indulgence.
A couple of things are certain at the moment. For one, if and when Dhoni decides to or is allowed to wear India colours again, the occasion is going to mark a loud frenzy of madness among fans and visual media will add to the volume with gay abandon.
The appetite for another Dhoni cameo is far from extinguished. The only way to quell the noise might be a substantive comment about his plans from Dhoni himself. He owes that to his team, country and fans.
The weight of uncertainty on the young shoulders of a talented Pant is both a disservice to Indian cricket and unfair to the young cricketer.
Secondly, Pant is under increasing pressure to deliver and deliver big. Opportunities are hard to come by in Indian cricket. Walk around the domestic alleys of Indian cricket and you will find a truckload of talented young cricketers whose dreams to adorn the blue colours remain consigned to their dreams.
Under the circumstances, the onus is on Pant to tone his instincts in the interests of his team and self.
Time is running out for the young man. Expectant eyes are hovering lower and lower as they start to catch the scent of an opening.
In stark contrast, Dhoni seems to be in command of his destiny and direction. The great man seems to have stalled time, knowing well that BCCI might find it rather hard to ring the bell on his career. And so it is proving to be, to the detriment of Indian cricket.
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