Rishabh Pant - the darling of everyone's eyes these days - has also been the critic's favorite child for a long time now. In his teens, he traveled all across the north-western part of India trying his luck at cricket. But after a Ranji debut in late 2015 and a stellar Under-19 World Cup early in the year that followed, it didn't take him long to catch the eye of the Indian selectors.
Though Pant made his India debut in February 2017, he has seen all the highs and lows one can imagine for in a short career. His overseas Test hundreds in London and Sydney were followed by an ommission from the initial 2019 World Cup squad. He was eventually added to the squad following Shikhar Dhawan's mid-tournament injury.
The then chairman of selectors MSK Prasad called Rishabh India's 'first choice wicketkeeper' just before India's subsequent tour of the West Indies that year. But a mere lack of extraordinary performances followed by a concussion injury propelled him from the role of a wicketkeeper batsman to a cover wicketkeeper.
Rishabh Pant was not even in India's squad for the limited overs leg of India's tour of Australia a few months ago. He was the second-choice wicketkeeper for the Test leg, but superlative performances in the fourth innings of the last two Tests meant Pant was back in the fray.
The previous four-month period has been the most consolidated spell of time in Rishabh's career so far. An unfortunate injury to his Delhi Capitals captain and India teammate Shreyas Iyer has handed him his first captaincy stint on such a large stage since he captained Delhi's senior state team three years ago.
Team management must have considered many positives before finalizing Rishabh as their captain for this season, ahead of veterans such as Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin and Steve Smith. Pant has been part of the Delhi Capitals setup for the last five completed seasons and would know the team's strengths and weaknesses very well.
He has been a regular with the Indian national squad for almost three years now, and would surely know a thing or two about the mindset of foreign players. Being a wicketkeeper is an added advantage, as it helps one understand the batsmen's anticipation and have a say in infield positions as well. Plus, he has had several interactions with India's captain about on-field strategies, so this choice of captain certainly has some calculation behind it.
Possible Impact of Captaincy on Rishabh Pant
So what impact does this have on the person in question? How does he deal with this happy turnaround? How overwhelming is it for someone who wasn't even India's first-choice wicketkeeper in any format until a few months ago?
Rishabh Pant has proved his mental toughness over the last three years while playing for India. Despite being in and out of the team, he has consistently performed either when the team's chips were down or when he was covering in for an injured player. Whether it was during the 2018 Oval Test, the 2019 World Cup or the 2020-21 season against Australia and South Africa.
Pant has matured a lot in the recent phase as well. He has backed his natural game - which involves more attack than defense. But his match-winning unbeaten 89 in India's deciding Test in Australia at Brisbane was testament to his sense of responsibility towards the team.
Having observed Pant's graph over the recent past, he has the temperament to handle not only the benefits, but the demerits that come with captaincy - especially when the team has to counter undesired results. But Rishabh Pant would not be ruling out the possibility of a bad IPL for Delhi Capitals either, despite the team's best ever performance in the previous season.
Whether Delhi Capitals have a good, bad or average season - Rishabh Pant will definitely learn and grow through this phase. But it is now up to the critics to let this youngster breathe. His twenty-fourth birthday is still four months away.