Rohit Sharma: 'We have to stick with Rishabh Pant for a while'

The interim India captain backed the 22-year-old Pant as the team's first choice as wicketkeeper-batsman in T20Is.

Rohit Sharma: "We have to stick with him (Pant) for a while and see how he performs and what he does."   -  PTI

Sanju Samson displayed poise and grace and timed the ball well as he went about facing net-bowlers during a training session in the afternoon at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here.

Coming off a solid run in the domestic circuit, the highlight being an unbeaten double-century in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Kerala, Samson staked his claim to be part of the Indian team for the three-match T20I series that begins here on Sunday.

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Pant first choice

However, as a wicketkeeper-batsman alone, he will not be chosen ahead of Rishabh Pant, hinted captain Rohit Sharma. “[Both Samson and Pant] are really talented but we have stuck with Rishabh Pant all this while. And this is the moment that he embraces more, this is the format that gave him a lot of attention. This is the format where he excelled to start with and caught people’s attention.

"We have to stick with him for a while and see how he performs and what he does. We have seen how well he can take the game forward when he has his day. We just have to back him more. He has hardly played 10-15 T20 matches so it is still too soon to judge whether he is good or not. There is a lot of time left before we pass any judgement on [Pant],” Rohit said.

Although “all doors” were open for anybody to be a part of the playing XI, the team combination would depend on the pitch, clarified Rohit. “We have got to see the conditions, what the pitch has to offer because a lot has got to do with how the pitch is going to play. If the pitch is low and slow, slower bowlers come into play a lot. Which means we might have to play three spinners. If the pitch has some grass and we feel there might be some bounce as well, we might play three seamers as well. Everything depends on the conditions,” Rohit said.

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Strong opponent

The Bangladesh captain, Shakib Al Hasan, has been banned from all cricket for two years, with 12 months suspended, by the International Cricket Council after accepting three anti-corruption charges.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Despite the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh was a strong team in this format, acknowledged Rohit. “Bangladesh is a very, very good team. Over the years we have seen how they have performed not just at home but also away whenever they have gone out. Especially against us, they have always put under pressure. There is no way we look at this team differently. I understand two key players are missing but they still have quality players that can upset any team.

"I wouldn’t say upset. I would say beat. That’s a good word to use. They are very mature cricketers now. They have played for a long time. There are a few young players too. For us it is important not to focus too much on the opposition but to focus on us as a team,” Rohit said.

Although strong in T20Is in the last 12 months, the Indian team has struggled a bit when batting first. Three of its six losses in this period have come when batting first, the latest in Bengaluru in September, against South Africa. Pointing this out, Rohit said, “Something which we really wanted to focus on was posting totals and defending them. That is something that we spoke of. Which is why you saw the last T20 in Bangalore, the pitch was little sticky but we still opted to bat.

"If it was a final or semifinal, we would have probably chased on that pitch. But we wanted to try and challenge ourselves to take on the task of posting scores on difficult pitches against difficult attacks. That is something we want to try because we want all our bases covered. Before we get into the World Cup. This is the perfect time for us to do that but at the same time we want to win games as well,” he said.

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Ups and downs

Rohit Sharma will be leading India in the T20 series against Bangladesh.   -  PTI Photo

 

The upcoming contest will be Rohit's 99th in his international career. He will surpass M. S. Dhoni as the most capped T20I player for India. Reflecting on his journey so far, which began with the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007, Rohit said, “It has been a long journey which has had a lot of ups and downs as well. I have learned so many things in these 12 years in which I have played this format particularly.

"There have been ups and downs, which have only taught me so many lessons going forward. Today I stand here or sit here rather with my head on my shoulders. Because when you come into a team as a young player, you are only trying to learn things. Which happened quite smoothly at the start and then with few ups and with few downs through the career, I have become a stronger player.

"I have understood myself as a player. What situation of the game demands what sort of attitude. And things like that. There are so many things I can talk about. It has been a fruitful journey so far, one that will always be remembered and cherished by me.”