Long way to go but Pant on course to reach lofty levels of Adam Gilchrist: Ian Smith


PTI, Jun 22, 2024, 11:24 AM IST

Rishabh Pant’s comparison with Adam Gilchrist would be pre-mature at this stage but the India wicket-keeper batter can certainly get close to the Australian great’s records if he can maintain his current form, reckons former New Zealand international Ian Smith.

Himself a wicket-keeper batter, Smith is impressed with what Pant has done since his comeback from a horrific car accident. He had a good IPL and has now carried that form into the T20 World Cup.

Pant is among the most exciting talents in the game, having already logged Test hundreds in Australia, England and South Africa, something even his mentor M S Dhoni could not achieve. However, Pant has a long way to go when compared with Gilchrist, who amassed more than 15000 runs in international cricket besides taking more than 800 catches behind the stumps.

“Rishabh Pant since his accident has come back very strong and he looks in terrific form. He is dynamic. He’s aggressive, he’s dangerous,” said Smith, who has now become one of the most respected voices in the game and is currently commentating on T20 World Cup.

Like Gilchrist, Pant has shown he can bat up and down the order across formats.

“He can compliment who’s with him, whether he comes in to support Kohli or whether he comes in to support… Rohit Sharma, so three is a good spot for him because I firmly believe that in white ball cricket your best players should have the opportunity to face the most deliveries. And so that’s what makes him valuable.

“He can hit the first ball he faces out of the ground and he’s got other bailout options as well if it doesn’t work out that way. I mean, you know, he’s replaced a very good player in K L Rahul. KL Rahul is a world class cricketer. That says it all for me,” said Smith.

However, the 26-year-old’s comparison with Gilchrist can wait.

“Ah yeah, well, he’s got a bit to go. But yes, similar type cricketer who can, in test cricket, bat down the order. And in white ball cricket can be back at the top of the order. So there’s that similarity with Gilchrist there. But if he continues on the same vein for a few more years, then people will say Gilchrist and Pant, yeah, very close,” said the 67-year-old from Nelson.

For him, Pant is surely one of the best in the modern-game alongside Quinton de Kock, Jos Buttler and Mohammad Rizwan.

 

NZ have come to end of productive cycle, need split coaching

The Blackcaps, who are among the most consistent team in world cricket, failed to qualify for the Super 8s of the ongoing ICC event, marking the end of a cycle for Smith.

“They’ve just come to the end of a really good cycle where their results have always been competitive, and we’ve got through to finals in world competitions. Players getting on a wee bit, getting older, starting to work on what is important to them and how they can maximise what’s left in their career dollar-wise.

“You can’t blame a lot of them for that. You get one opportunity at it and it’s a lot more lucrative to travel the world and play in the leagues than it is to stay in New Zealand and be based there. It’s something New Zealand have to look at,” he said referring to top players opting out of central contracts.

“The other thing is we need some fresh ideas in the coaching department. I don’t think one coach can coach all three forms of the game anymore and so therefore New Zealand just needs a bit of a new broom to sweep through after a pretty successful cycle.”

Following the World Cup exit, Kane Williamson declined a central contract to spend more time with family and be available for franchise cricket.

First Trent Boult and now Willamsoin, does it set a dangerous precedent?

“Well, he’s not the first player of course to do that. Trent Boult has done it, Jimmy Neesham has done it, Colin Munro has done it. He’s the most important cricketer to us to have done it.

“So I think it’s an indication that when you have paid your dues, when you’ve had a long and distinguished career, you start to be able to pick and choose what you want to do for the remainder of your time. And I think it’s just an indication now for him he would have thought long and hard about giving up the captaincy because it’s important to him.

“The good news is he’s still available for New Zealand. And in particular, in Test Cricket, 32 Test Hundreds to improve on, that’s important,” said Smith, who played 63 Tests and 98 ODIs between 1980 and 1992.

 

Does the trend of giving up contracts lessen the importance of a national cap?

“Oh look, yeah, it depends you see on what level your national contracts are and what financially valuable they are. In New Zealand our pay scales are well below than some other countries. And so in our respect, we’ve been hanging in there with our dollar value contracts because that’s been really our only option and there’s nowhere else to go. But now there is (with so many leagues going on).

“Myself back in the day. Yeah, I would have done the same thing at this stage of my career (as Williamson did). I would have followed the money,” he said with all honesty.

 

Indian team has not been able to win major titles due to fear of failure

India have not won a world trophy since 2013 and Smith empathised with the most followed team on the planet.

“Fear of failure is a massive thing in sport. Pressure is a big thing. Being able to handle the big occasion. I mean, I don’t think any team in the world, or cricket in particular, plays with as much pressure on their shoulders as the Indian cricket team.

“The expectation… desire from the population for the team to win almost every game. Every day you get out of bed you have to win. It’s a tough thing to have to bear.”

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