'We certainly believe in Rishabh's ability'
'He should get support and it is disrespectful if you don't get it'
India captain Virat Kohli, on Thursday, threw his weight behind the under-fire Rishabh Pant, asserting that he wouldn't let the young wicketkeeper-batsman feel isolated as he battles a slump in form.
Pant has been under the scanner for a while due to his inability to convert starts and for erratic work behind the stumps. He recently also drew flak for poor DRS calls and several former players stated that he is fast running out of time.
But ahead of the T20 International series against the West Indies starting here on Friday, Kohli fully backed the 22-year-old, saying it is the team's collective responsibility to support Pant in the trying times.
"We certainly believe in Rishabh's ability. As you say, it's (also) the player's responsibility to do well, work hard and I agree but I think it's a collective responsibility of everyone around us as well to give that player some space to do that," he said.
"If he misses a chance or something, people can't shout. It's not respectful because no player would like that to happen," he added.
Kohli said he expects the crowd in India to get behind the youngster, who was booed in the home series against Bangladesh last month.
"You are playing in your own country and you should get support rather than always thinking what mistake is this guy going to make. No one wants to be in that position," he said.
"He can't be isolated to such an extent that he gets nervous on the field. If you want him to do well and win matches for India all of us collectively should make him feel like he belongs and we are here to do things for him rather than against him," Kohli added.
Kohli said Pant's match-winning abilities are unquestionable and he has proved that in IPL time and again.
"As Rohit (Sharma) said recently, he needs to be left alone, he is a match-winner. Once he comes good, you will see a very different version of him, which we have seen in the IPL already because he is free and relaxed there."
"He feels that there is a lot more respect when it comes to his abilities and what he can achieve for the team. I think he needs to feel that a bit more," he said.
India and the West Indies will compete in a T20 and ODI series, each of which comprises three matches.
The India captain, however, rejected theories that Pant can be tried up the order against the West Indies.
"Not really," was Kohli's reaction when asked whether Pant can be seen opening the innings.
"In IPL you have eight teams and a lot more players who can play at a lot more positions. You have to figure out who are the best guys to do the job at a particular position," he explained.