Rishabh Pant on Friday played a crucial
71-ball 85 runs innings against South Africa at Boland Park, Paarl. The
wicketkeeper-batter hit 10 boundaries and 2 sixes that propelled India to 286
for 6 in the first innings. Pant’s ability to play utility innings in the time
of need makes him an integral part of the Indian team across the formats.

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This ability of Pant has impressed former
Indian pacer Zaheer Khan. The 2011 World Cup-winning pace bowler said the batter should be used as an “impact” player by the team management.

Zaheer weighed in on the youngster’s
“X Factor”, saying that one cannot judge him based on his numbers. Pant often receives flak for playing irresponsible shots in crunch time.

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On Friday, in the second ODI against South
Africa, Pant came to bat at No. 4 after India lost Shikhar Dhawan and Virat
Kohli and played a very important innings to rescue India from an early hiccup.

It seemed like Pant would notch his maiden
ODI century but he holed out to Aiden Markram while attempting a lofted hit.

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“When you talk about a player who has
got the X-Factor, Rishabh Pant comes to mind. He has got versatility that puts
him in a different category. If one manages to do things which other players
are not able to pull off, expectations tend to rise as well as pressure,”
Zaheer told Cricbuzz.

Pant is a player of Virender Sehwag mould

“But Pant is a character and he’s
least bothered about the commentary or outside noise. Virender Sehwag also used
to be like that in our times. He used to think about his own game instead of
focussing on other things… and Pant also has got a similar approach. You can’t
judge him on the basis of his stats due to the amount of risk that he takes.
He’s an impact player.

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“I don’t think his batting position
has affected his performance in limited-overs. India instead expects
flexibility from him. They have a player who can come in to bat according to
the situation. You can’t correlate his form and batting position… these are
two completely different things. Pant should be utilized as an impact player
rather than alloting a fixed batting spot to him,” he further added.

India lost the first ODI by 31 runs.