It is too early to give up on Pant
"Don't try to be Dhoni, be the best Rishabh," advised Adam Gilchrist while speaking about Rishabh Pant, earlier in November. Pant should memorize this advice like a mantra if he wants to bounce back in style in international cricket.
Pant has started his career with a bang -- scored two overseas Test hundreds and performed well in the IPL, which earned him a place in the World Cup squad. Everyone was in awe on his ability to hit sixes at will, and his attitude of giving it back to the opponents by his counter-attacking prowess.
He was considered as the rightful successor of legend MS Dhoni after his retirement and many experts have seen the glimpse of Dhoni in him. It was going like a fairy tale for Pant, before a speed breaker came and it has changed the pace of his career.
Now cut to the present situation, Pant has lost his place in Test cricket to Wriddhiman Saha. Earlier, he had an abysmal outing in the series against West Indies and South Africa, which continued in the recent T20 series against Bangladesh too. Soon he had to face the ire of the critics and a severe backlash in social networking sites, to the point that some are advocating giving a chance to other players in place of him.
Also see - Mushtaq Ali schedule
Well, this has always been the case with Indian cricket fans: we make a player hero one day and villain the other day. Legends of the game have gone through this phase, but the question here is that isn’t it too early to reject a player like Pant? Has he performed so bad that he should be dropped from the team? Let’s see what the stats have to say:
What does Stats show
MS Dhoni is arguably the best wicket-keeper who played for India and it is too early to compare Rishabh with him. But we can compare young M.S. with young Pant to check where he stands w.r.t. Dhoni in the initial phase of his career.
Pant Vs Young Dhoni in Test cricket
Let's start with the toughest format of the game, Test cricket.
Rishabh has played 18 Test innings till now in which he scored 754 runs with an average 44.35. He has scored two fifties and two overseas hundreds against Australia and England and is the first Indian wicket-keeper batsman to score a ton in Australia. In the same number of innings, MS had scored 522 runs with an average of 37.28 with two fifty and one hundred against Pakistan. These stats show that Rishabh has done better than Dhoni in the initial phase of his Test career.
Pant Vs Young Dhoni in One Day cricket
Now, let’s move to One Day format. Rishabh has played 10 one day innings till now in which he scored 229 runs with an average of 22.90 and the highest score of 48. In the same number of innings, Dhoni had scored 282 runs with an average of 31.33 along with one crucial hundred against Pakistan. By keeping in mind that Dhoni has started his career as a lower middle-order batsman and was later promoted to top order, we can conclude that young Dhoni was performing better than Rishabh when he started playing One-Day cricket.
Pant Vs Young Dhoni in T20 Cricket
Now it’s the turn of cricket’s fastest format T20. In 21 innings Pant played till now, he scored 358 runs with an average of 19.88 and strike rate of 118.15 along with two half-centuries. Dhoni in his first 21 innings had scored 371 runs with an average of 23.18 and a strike rate of 132.78. Dhoni had scored no half-century in his first 21 innings in the T20 format.
T20 was a new format when Dhoni started playing and he also became the captain at a young age. This assured him that he will remain part of the team even if he fails in one or two matches. One more thing to keep in mind is that Dhoni used to come lower down the order due to which he has been not out in 5 of his 21 innings which have improved his average as well as the strike rate. This is not the case with Pant and he also bats at the top order. Moreover, the T20 format is more competitive now. By considering these factors we can say that they have started their T20 career in almost the same manner.
Pant's wicket-keeping needs improvement
Pant had impressed with his wicket-keeping in tough conditions of England and Australia but dip in his batting form is affecting his wicket-keeping too, which became evident in the recent T20 series against Bangladesh. Dhoni had also faced some criticism because of his unorthodox style of wicket keeping initially but with time he had put all apprehensions to rest and emerged as one of the best wicket-keepers in the world. Pant will definitely improve if we are ready to give him more time.
Pant deserves more time
This comparison is not done to show that Pant is better than M.S Dhoni or vice versa but to show that even Dhoni took some time and faced a few hiccups at the start of his career, before becoming the Dhoni we know today.
There is nothing wrong in chastising any player. It is our right to do so because we also praise them when they do well. But there is a difference in criticizing someone and belittling someone and I think the latter is happening with Pant now. There is no doubt that Pant is an extremely talented player. Definitely, he is a blue-chip worthy of long term investment. Are we ready to invest in him? If the answer is yes, Pant will bring laurels to Indian Cricket we can be truly proud of.