Rishabh Pant is one of the most talked-about cricketers in international cricket from the time he stepped into MS Dhoni’s shoes. The left-handed wicket-keeper batter’s batting style and approach often become a topic of debate but in the long run, he could be Rohit Sharma’s successor for India.
Rishabh Pant is a name that can often drive conflicting opinions when being discussed in an office space or even at the dining table of your home. From the moment he stepped foot in international cricket fans and cricket experts alike have something to say about the twenty-four-year-old cricketer. For starters, Rishabh Pant hails from Uttarakhand and was born in a town called Roorkee. Roorkee is often associated with IIT which is one the biggest attractions of the city for students who dream of becoming engineers. Rarely would you find a cricketer coming out from a town like Roorkee. But this is Rishabh Pant and we know the most unusual or unconventional things are often associated with him.
The wicket-keeper batter that you see today in Rishabh Pant has had a long journey. At the age of 12, Rishabh Pant and his mother used to travel to New Delhi for his cricket training. During their stay in the national capital, he and his mother used to live in a gurudwara in Moti Bagh because they had no other accommodation. He used to train under the late Tarak Sinha who passed away last year. Rishabh Pant’s coach during his formative years was Tarak Sinha who helped him polish his skills as a cricketer.
Tarak Sinha suggested Rishabh Pant go and play in Rajasthan but that did not work out for him. He returned to Delhi and got picked for his state team. The left-handed batter made his presence felt in the next season of the Ranji Trophy as he went on to smash a triple hundred against Maharashtra. Following his innings, people in the cricketing circles started recognising his talent.
The young cricketers’ performances in the 2016 under-19 World Cup were being noticed as well. He smashed an 18 ball fifty against Nepal after opening the batting and in the very next game scored a century against Namibia. There were talks that teams might go after Rishabh Pant in the IPL. Turns out those things were true as a bidding war ensued in 2016 to buy him. The young wicket-keeper batters base price for Rs 10 lakhs and he went on to get Rs 1.9 crore after Delhi Capitals decided to rope him in.
IPL 2016 was not the best for Rishabh Pant as he managed to score only 198 runs from 10 matches with an average of 24.75 and a strike rate of 130.26. But in 2017 he improved and in the 14 matches that he played he amassed 366 runs with an average of 26.14 and a strike rate of 165.61.
In 2017, Rishabh Pant received an India call-up for the T20I series against England in February. He now holds the record for being the youngest to debut for India in the shortest format of the game. However, he could manage to play just two games that year and scored 43 runs.
The following year Rishabh Pant was selected for India’s tour of England. He made his Test debut in Nottingham. Rishabh Pant also smashed a century in the fifth Test match of the series. He was soon after selected for the ODI team as well and made his debut against the West Indies in October.
Rishabh Pant’s career so highs and lows at a very early stage. He was called to England and added to the squad in the middle of the 2019 World Cup. However, he failed to make an impact as India crashed out of the tournament after a loss in the semi-finals against West Indies.
Soon after this, MS Dhoni took a hiatus from international cricket and the wicket-keeper’s slot was up for grabs. Rishabh Pant was unable to grab his chances and eventually, India started to look at KL Rahul as a keeper-batter in limited-overs cricket.
Rishabh Pant was struggling for runs and looked like he had fallen out of favour with the team management. He was unable put big runs in the longest format of the game and it looked like he would eventually be dropped from the Test side after failing it to the ODIs and T20Is.
However, there was a twist to the tale as Rishabh Pant was asked to keep in the second Test match after India’s miserable performance in the first Test where they were bowled out for 36. With Virat Kohli back in India for the birth of his child. Ajinkya Rahane took over and Wriddhiman Saha was replaced by Rishabh Pant.
Rishabh Pant looked determined to make the most of his chances and he did. The wicket-keeper batter who everyone thought was done and dusted turned the series around for India. Pant’s innings at the Gabba was one of the finest Test innings by a wicket-keeper batter. The left-hander scored 274 runs from 3 matches with an average of 68.50.
The Australia series completely changed his fortunes as he is now an integral part of the Indian team. Pant has matured as a batter and understands the game much better. He still plays his shots and is one of the biggest match-winners in the current India side. The 24-year-old has also improved his wicket-keeping skills tremendously and is one of the best at the moment in international cricket.
He was also elevated to vice-captaincy in the T20I series against the West Indies in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul. It seems like Rishabh Pant is being groomed for captaincy after the Rohit Sharma era. Pant is a part of the new leadership group and being a wicket-keeper gives him an added advantage to analyse the game much better from behind the stumps.
Rishabh Pant is also the captain of his IPL franchise Delhi Capitals whom he successfully led to the top of the points table in his first year as captain in IPL 2021. With age on his side and the kind of impact that he has on the game it feels like Rishabh Pant is on his way to becoming India’s captain after the Rohit Sharma era.