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'Give the player some space' - Kohli urges fans to respect Pant
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'Give the player some space' - Kohli urges fans to respect Pant

Virat Kohli has backed under-fire wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant as India aim to settle for a stable lineup ahead of the T20 World Cup next year.

Pant, deemed as former India skipper MS Dhoni's successor behind the stumps, has copped a lot of criticism for frequently throwing away his wicket as a batsman.

Dhoni has not yet called time on his career, having last featured in an international game during the ICC World Cup, though the national selectors have hinted at sticking with Pant in the long-run.

Kohli, meanwhile, called on Indian fans to refrain from shouting Dhoni's name in order to intimidate the 22-year-old Pant.

Kohli reasoned such actions from the home crowd were not "respectful" and mounted pressure on the youngster.

"We certainly believe in Rishabh's ability," said Kohli.

"It's the player's responsibility to do well, work hard," he added.

"But I think it's a collective responsibility of everyone around us as well to give that player some space to do that.

"If he misses a chance or something, people can't shout 'MS' in the stadium. It's not respectful because no player would like that to happen."

India are currently ranked a middling fifth in T20Is compared to their number one position in Tests and ODIs but Kohli insisted his team were rapidly progressing.

He excused the team's inconsistent performances in the format as a consequence of too much experimentation.

"T20 is a format where you experiment a lot more things than ODI and Test cricket, so the risk is higher."

"As a team, you want to give chances to youngsters. So you can't really pinpoint where we stand. Ranking is actually the reflection of the strongest eleven but we haven't really played the strongest eleven together for many games."

With the return of Kohli and other key members in the squad for the limited-overs series against the West Indies, the star batter admitted the team combination had become "stronger".

India prevailed over Bangladesh 2-1 under the leadership of Rohit Sharma recently and Kohli hoped they would continue to succeed.

"For us, it's about figuring out who are the players that can make a transition into international cricket and this a good format to see them."

"Heading into the World Cup, rankings are going to be irrelevant because in T20 anyone can win on the day. I think our combination is getting stronger and stronger.

"We will probably be playing as close to the eleven that we want in the World Cup as possible for the remainder of the T20 games we have leading into the World Cup."

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