Rishabh Pant is quite the enigma and is a promising character with a bag full of talent and zeal. The youngster is touted to be one of the next big personalities of Indian cricket. What wicket-keeper batsman MS Dhoni came and achieved in Indian colours, very few in this position have notched the same.
With Rishabh Pant having excellent command over his batting, his position in the Indian side as a wicket-keeper batsman could be pivotal.
Post Dhoni’s retirement from Tests, India have struggled to stay afloat in this department.
From Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel to Dinesh Karthik, every one of them struggled to get going especially outside the subcontinent.
Saha and Karthik are no doubt tremendous keepers, but its the batting at this crucial position that has let them down. With Karthik getting back to the thick of the action in the Test side, this opportunity was a crucial one for him to cement his place in the team.
However, repeated failures in the ongoing Test series against England could pave a way for the charismatic Pant.
Indian batting has struggled by a solid margin in England as batsmen haven’t quite cracked the code in conditions that need one to come out dirty and show enormous mental strength.
Two losses see the Indian team trail by a 0-2 margin in the 5-match series. With the third Test to be played at Nottingham from Saturday onwards, one question that crops up is whether is it the right time to pick youngster Rishabh Pant?
Groom him for the future
The likes of Saha and Karthik are in the twilight of their careers and with crucial tours for India post the England series, one should give Pant the chance to go and express himself. The aggressive player needs the backing of the management to hang in there and learn from the senior players. This will only serve him well as far as his future is concerned.
Pant is a solid player with sound keeping credentials and has kept wickets for Delhi in the domestic trophies and also for the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League. With age by his side, Pant will have enough time to prosper and grow like that of many Indian cricketers of the past.
With his intent of attack and playing all range of shots, his nature embodies similarities to that of former Australian legendary wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist. It’s too soon to think Pant can go an become a player similar to the Aussie, but the character suggests it could likely happen with time.
Cracking the overseas code
If one needs to be a successful cricketer, then cracking the code of how to play outside the subcontinent is a must. Many Indian cricketers over time have done that and Pant can slowly move forward and learn to play quality cricket overseas.
If one thing that has been missing from the current crop of Indian batsmen, it is the ability to strike the mental formula overseas. Pant like the rest could be greeted with hostility at Nottingham if given a chance. But the experience of facing James Anderson and Co. will serve him well.
Pant has been amongst the runs
He was named in the India A squad, coached by the legendary Rahul Dravid, after a strong IPL, in which he scored 684 runs in 14 matches at an average of 52.61. Pant was consistent, chiefly in the tri-series final which India A won, and then came a counter-attacking 67* off 71 balls to help script an eye-catching comeback win against West Indies A in a four-day match.
Pant’s wicketkeeping came into light as he had 17 dismissals on tour and ended on a strong note with 58 and 61 in defeat to the England Lions. This helped him be in the radar as the BCCI selectors named him in an 18-man squad for the first three Tests against England.
Times when Pant came and delivered
Pant has played some crucial knocks across several formats in domestic cricket and the U-19 World Cup. In between, he scripted various records and showed his intent of a powerhouse. Here we look at some instances when he came and made the difference for the side.
Scene 1: U-19 World Cup: Pant burst into the limelight during the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. He smashed the fastest fifty (18 balls) in the tournament’s history against Nepal. But the moment came when he made a serious 111 off 96 balls in the quarter-finals against Namibia. His blitz propelled India to 349 for 6. What was great to watch was the manner in which he laid the foundation for the team to get to a big total.
Scene 2: Ranji Trophy: In 2016-17, Pant broke the First-class record of the fastest century by an Indian batsman with a 48-ball ton against Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy. He had also scored a ton in the first innings of that match. Although Jharkhand came out with all three points to Delhi’s one, Pant came in and showed his mettle at the age of 19.
The southpaw finished the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy with 972 runs from 12 innings at an average of 81 and strike-rate of 107.28. He scored four centuries, among them a triple-century against Maharashtra.
Scene 3: IPL: This was by far the best innings in the IPL history, Earlier this year, Pant’s 128-run knock for Delhi Daredevils, against the Kane Williamson-led Sunrisers Hyderabad, saw him notch the highest T20 score by an Indian. The youngster’s knock, which included 15 fours and seven sixes, made for a remarkable 68.4% of Delhi’s total of 187/5.
Pant has the character to excel
U-19 and India A coach Rahul Dravid praised Pant and believes that he has the required temperament and skills to transfer his shorter format success to the red ball cricket. Having these words from a legend’s mouth must have already given the Delhi batsman plenty of confidence.
Pant has shown in recent times that he is willing to bat differently and take his time. For two seasons in a row, Pant had an excellent Ranji Trophy campaign with his strike-rate well above hundred. But red ball cricket away from home is challenging and given Pant’s remarkable growth there is a sense of belief that he may go out and prosper.
Reading of the situation a batsman is playing red ball cricket is required. And the maturity Pant has gained over time, now needs to be built upon.