Why India needs to calm down about Rishabh Pant
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in India. People treat it as religion and the players as some sort of Gods. However, sometimes the excitement and emotions of the sport reaches such a level that people are blinded to reality. This has been the case with the Indian media, cricket supporters, pundits and experts of the sport while dealing with the young Rishabh Pant.
Pant was introduced to international cricket when he was named in India's squad for the 2016 Under-19 Cricket World Cup. During the tournament, he slammed an 18-ball fifty which is the fastest at that level. Before the international stint, Pant made his Ranji and Vijay Hazare trophy debut in 2015. In the 2016-17 season of the Ranji Trophy, he scored 308 in an innings against Maharashtra, becoming the third youngest Indian to score a triple century in first-class cricket. Pant continued to show his explosive nature by scoring the fastest century in Ranji Trophy history in just 48 deliveries.
This swashbuckling style of batting prompted IPL side Delhi Daredevils to snap him up for the 2016-17 season. His form for the Daredevils paved his way for his inclusion into the India T20I squad for the series against England in January, 2017. He then made his ODI and Test debuts for India in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
He rose up as an exciting talent bus has flattered to deceive on many occasions. When he has clicked, he has looked like a fantastic player but he has been far too inconsistent. Is he a bad player? Of course not. He has been touted to be the future of Indian cricket by the likes of Rahul Dravid, who has coached him at the junior level, and Sourav Ganguly, who has been one of the best batsmen in the world. However, thrusting an unfinished 20-year-old into the metaphoric cyclone of the cricketing world is neither fair to the player nor Indian cricket.
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As a batsman
While batting he has made the same mistakes repeatedly and hasn't used his failures as a learning step. Most players have a certain style of play but have to create harmony between their style and the requirement of the situation. Pant has the chance to learn this from the best in Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Both these legends have their own style of batting but can modify their game according to the situation; case in point, Rohit's 122 off 144 balls against South Africa which showed that he can play a more defensive innings when required. Pant has played 18 test innings, 10 ODI innings and 21 T20I innings. He has an average of 44.4 in Tests which is good but has a dismal average of 22.9 and 19.9 in ODIs and T20Is, respectively. His last nine scores across all formats have been 6, 0, 27, 19, 0, 27, 24, 20 and 0.
His talent is undeniable, which he has proven with centuries against England and Australia in their backyard. He has played a few good innings but hasn't stepped up when the team has needed him most. This does not make the young keeper a bad player. What Pant needs is to be made aware of his mistakes, taken out of the Indian setup for a while and put back only when he is a finished product.
As a wicket-keeper
When looking at the southpaw, we have to keep in mind that he has the monumental task of replacing the legend that is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. So, it is safe to say he will always have pressure to perform like the former captain. Although he is an athletic individual, Pant has made extremely silly mistakes, epitomised by his wicket-keeping error against Bangladesh, where he collected the bowl ahead of the stumps that gave the Bangladeshi batsmen a huge lifeline.
He has struggled to keep wickets in the difficult English and Australian conditions. He has also found it difficult to judge the spin in Indian conditions, failing to collect deliveries down the led side and not holding on to catches. This has prompted the captain and the coach to pick Wriddhiman Saha over Pant in Test matches and Saha's incredible performances since have made it even more difficult for Pant to hold down his spot in the Test side.
Another important job of a wicket-keeper is to play an important role is calling for the DRS and the man behind the stumps is the best judge of any nick off the bat or the line of the ball in case of an LBW. Without comparing him to Dhoni, who is the without argument the best in the world in terms of DRS calls, Pant's judgement has been quite poor with the calls.
This article is not intended to say that Pant is not a good batsman or wicket-keeper. The intention is to say that the overall game of the Uttarakhand born player is yet to be fine-tuned. Throwing someone in the deep end without teaching that person the correct swimming strokes ultimately leads to that person struggling to move or come out of the water. If Pant is pushed into the deep-end of cricket without being given the correct guidance and the proper techniques, it could eventually lead to a very early and unnatural downfall of a spectacular talent. Pant is just 22 at the moment and has time on his hands to improve his game and realise his true potential but that cannnot happen if he doesn't get the support he needs to improve.