India's young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant drew breathing space with a pressure-releasing 71 in the first ODI of the three-match series against West Indies at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Pant stabilized the Indian innings alongside fellow IPL teammate Shreyas Iyer, as the duo forged a 114-run partnership to put India out of trouble in the first innings. The side, however, eventually lost the game by 8 wickets, courtesy a brilliant hundred from Shimron Hetmyer.
Pant addressed the post-match press conference where he talked about his struggles with the bat. This was the youngster's first half-century in 13 ODIs (11 innings). In the T20Is, Rishabh Pant last scored a fifty in August against West Indies. The side has played three T20I series since.
Talking about the criticism, the Indian wicketkeeper-batsman said that he's going through a 'learning curve', and is trying to improve every day.
"Personally, if I play for India, every innings is important for me. As a youngster I want to improve each and every day," said Pant.
"Sometimes it's important when crowd supports you. From an individual point of view, I was trying to improve myself each and every day but I wasn't getting there. I'm not saying I got there, but I try to improve. It's my learning curve, I'm thinking that. From team's point of view, whatever I can do to help my team win, to have a good score on the scoreboard, that's what I was focussing. In the end, I got some runs."
Rishabh Pant arrived at the crease when India were 80/3 in the first ODI, having lost the key wickets of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. The youngster insisted that the mindset was to stitch a partnership alongside Iyer.
"At the start, (Shreyas) Iyer and I were thinking of first stitching together a partnership and taking the game to the 35th-40th over because a 50-over game is a fairly long one. Our idea was that the longer our partnership will be, it'd help us in capitalising late in the innings," said Pant.
"We'd lost three wickets early which mandated a solid partnership."
Pant has often faced criticism for his reckless stroke-playing, and he acknowledged during the press conference that he has learned to play according to the situation.
"I've realised after playing a fair bit at the international level that unlike at amateur levels of cricket, there isn't anything like a natural game," said the 21-year-old.
"At the international level, you have to play according to the situation or what the team demands. As an individual and as a player I want to focus on my processes. All the talk going around, they're good and sometimes they're not.
"At the moment, I'm concentrating on my game and that will hold me in good stead."
When asked what kept him going after facing consistent criticism, Pant revealed that one needs to follow their processes and believe in oneself.
"I will always tell a person that you have to believe in yourself. It doesn't matter what the people say around you. Sometimes you don't get runs, sometimes you get runs but the process is always important," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.
"If I'm practising I'm thinking about cricket. If I'm off the field, I'm not thinking about it too much. I talked to the team management and they told me, 'just calm yourself. See what you can do around to improve your game, improve your fitness. Just try to improve yourself in every factor.'"
He was also asked about India's lack of teeth in their bowling line-up during the first ODI. He backed a relatively young Indian bowling attack, however, when asked if the side is missing Jasprit Bumrah, who is currently out with injury.
"Bumrah is a top bowler. Everyone knows that. He's out because of an injury. The other bowlers who are playing here aren't bowling badly either. As youngsters, these guys are learning. Bumrah has now become an experienced bowler. He has learned quite a bit having played so much of international cricket. These players will also learn as they go along," said Pant.