Rishabh Pant: The prodigious talent waiting in the wings
- He is all of 19 years and promises a lot in the near future.
The 19-year old Rishabh Pant has now established himself as a hard-hitter of the cricket ball. He was a part of the Under-19 team which played in Bangladesh last year. In his early days, he had struggled to make a name for himself and had relocated thrice for the same reason. Pant was once thrown out the academy in Rajasthan for being an "outsider". He finally settled in Delhi and joined Sonnet cricket club where he was nurtured by Tarak Sinha.
The Delhi batsman took up cricket as a career after being inspired by Adam Gilchrist. Pant holds the record for scoring the fastest half-century in under-19 ODI circuit, scoring it against Nepal in 18 balls. In the next game, he scored a century against Namibia (111 runs from 96 balls); his impressive showing led to Delhi Daredevils signing him for a whopping 1.9 crores, from a base price of Rs. 10 lakhs.
In a Ranji Trophy encounter against Maharashtra this season, Pant scored a triple-century to become the fourth youngest player to score a triple hundred in first class cricket. He amassed 308 runs in 326 balls where he displayed the wide range of shots in his armoury. A few days later against Jharkhand, Pant blasted the fastest century in the history of Ranji Trophy cricket. It took him just 48 deliveries to reach the landmark and bettered the previous record by 8 balls.
He broke many records in that particular game. He smashed 21 sixes in the same game which is the highest in a single Ranji Trophy match breaking the record held by Yusuf Pathan. Pathan had scored 15 sixes in the Duleep Trophy final of 2009-10 edition. Pant has already shown glimpses that on his day, he can be difficult to stop. His natural instincts are to attack, akin to his idol Adam Gilchrist, and he has also drawn comparisons with the Nawab of Najafgarh - Virender Sehwag, for his explosive batting abilities.
Extra Cover: Why it's too early to drop the gun on Rishabh Pant
When asked about his favourite cricketer, Sehwag had once said, “For an uncapped player, I would have to say Rishabh Pant. The way he bats, he is unbelievable. He has scored the fastest Ranji Trophy hundred and then he scored the 300 in less than 300 balls. He is a very talented young player.”
India at the moment have batting riches at the top of the order, but they don’t possess any reputed big-hitter lower down the order in any format of the game.
Well, Pant seems to be the answer to that problem with his Gilchrist-esque batting. Pant can bat lower down the order and also has the ability to open the innings. In the near future, we might well see him opening the innings alongside Kohli or KL Rahul in the T20s. He doesn’t need much time to get in and scores at a brisk rate. This could be the added advantage to include him in the XI.
MS Dhoni has dominated the wicketkeeper spot for 13 years and the time for the former Indian captain to leave the international arena could be somewhere close. Yes, Dhoni did recently say that he still has ambitions of playing on till the 2019 World Cup but the tougher task for India is to find a replacement and groom him.
Rishabh Pant for now, seems to be an apt solution. Should Dhoni abruptly decide to retire from the International arena, well, Pant could just be the one to be drafted into the team.
In addition to his batting exploits, Pant is a renowned fielder as well. He is agile and can field in any position. Not long ago, even Virat Kohli was in the same position as Rishab Pant is but times have changed and Kohli the captain has just handed Pant his debut. Pant is now the youngest ever Indian to feature in a T20I. bettering Ishant Sharma’s record by 22 days.
This Ranji Trophy season has been very special for Pant. He amassed a staggering 972 runs in just 8 innings at an average of 81.00. Unsurprisingly, his strike rate of 107.28 is the highest for anyone who has played 7 innings or more.
Extra Cover: Rishabh Pant becomes India's youngest T20I debutant
The Indian Premier League is around the corner and the expectations of him are increasing with every match. Incidentally, his Under-19 coach, Rahul Dravid, mentors the Delhi Daredevils outfit. We all know how keen Dravid is to hand chance to the youth. So the stage is set for him to make the most of the chances that he will be given in this season’s IPL.
The current T20 side needs a finisher and the 50 overs side needs an opener. Also, with the ICC Champions Trophy this year, Pant will have to prove himself in the upcoming edition of IPL and cement his place in the Indian team following a highly successful domestic season with the bat. He has the potential and also the temperament to flourish in the international arena. For now, we will have to firmly believe that Pant will live up to the expectations.Published 04 Feb 2017, 16:53 IST