Rishabh Pant's first series as India captain turned out to be a rollercoaster ride as he lost games against South Africa in Delhi and Cuttack before winning the next two in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot. Interestingly, Rishabh Pant wasn't even named skipper for the five matches against the Proteas but was elevated to the position after KL Rahul was ruled out due to a groin injury. The series, however, didn't go too well for Rishabh Pant. Initially, he was slammed for making some questionable decisions as captain of the Indian cricket team, and later he was under fire for his poor display with the bat. In his five outings against the Temba Bavuma-led side, Rishabh Pant could only manage 58 runs at an average of just over 23. Former cricketers, including the great Sunil Gavaskar, even blasted him for falling in the off-side trap and making the same mistakes again and again. Though his harshest criticism was yet to come. Former India all-rounder Madan Lal has now launched a full-blown attack on Rishabh Pant, declaring that if he was the chairman of selectors at the moment, he wouldn't have allowed the 24-year-old to become Team India's skipper.
“I would have stopped him from becoming captain. Wouldn't have allowed it. Because such a player needs to be given this responsibility later. Becoming an India captain is a big deal. He is a youngster. He isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The longer he plays, he will gain more maturity,” Madan Lal said on Sports Tak.
Madan Lal even pulled instances from MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli's stints as India captain, stressing that Rishabh Pant should first mature as a batter before taking the leadership mantle of the Indian cricket team for a longer period.
“Over the next two years, if he can take his game to the next level, then he can be a good captain, can deal with things maturely. This is a player of a different nature. MS Dhoni was a quiet and cool captain, which suited him as captain. Virat Kohli is a brilliant batter. I’m not saying Pant shouldn't be swinging his bat but if he can play with a little more maturity, it would be great,” Madan Lal added.
Madan Lal, however, isn't the first Indian cricketer who has gone on to criticize the young southpaw. The likes of Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, and Aakash Chopra have all been critical of Rishabh Pant of late.
“Right from day one we knew he(Pant) is going to be popular. He came the first day and then got dropped as he flopped initially. Then he came back and made a name for himself. I am very sure he will be disappointed with the kind of T20 numbers he had,” Ashish Nehra said on Cricbuzz.
“The question this person asked was ‘can Team India play T20 cricket without Pant? Yes, Why Not. T20 World Cup is very far away. There is no stamp that says Pant will surely play the T20 World Cup. He can also get injured. But there are lot of games in between. We will have ten T20Is and then the Asia Cup,” the former India pacer added.
“One good thing about Pant is that he plays all three formats. Others play only T20I, and if they don’t perform well in these limited chances, they will have some problems. You have Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson. You also have Dinesh Karthik,” Nehra further said.
Aakash Chopra felt that Rishabh Pant disappointed everyone in the series against South Africa, especially after he was elevated to the post of India captain.
“He was the captain in the series and when someone is the captain, you feel that he is secure. A lot of people, including myself, were of the opinion that there was no need for him to give an audition because he is one of the first names you would want to put when you prepare the squad,” Aakash Chopra said on his YouTube channel.
“He is our X-factor. You get only one left-hander in the entire batting order, the rest are all right-handers. You never know whether Ishan Kishan will get a chance or not and Jaddu comes in the end, so Rishabh Pant is very very important and integral to India's scheme of things,” he added.
Sunil Gavaskar, however, denied that Rishabh Pant's spot in the Indian cricket team was any kind of threat.
“I don’t think so. It’s still early days. There are plenty of T20 matches still ahead. There is a T20I series in England, there is a T20I series in West Indies. I don’t think there is going to be any pressure on him. He is not the kind of character who takes pressure, he goes out and enjoys his cricket. And that’s the mindset that has brought him success,” Sunil Gavaskar told Star Sports.
“I will wait as there are still plenty of T20 matches before the World Cup. We can wait and then look at the form. We can decide anything but it’s up to the selectors to take the final call,” Gavaskar signed off.