For Rishabh Pant, the last eight months of India's campaign in the ongoing WTC have been monumental. After being at the receiving end of smear campaigns and constant trolling, the left-hander has emerged as a key player for India across all three formats.
There was a lot of promise and hype around the 19-year old when he was making his way through the ranks. Rishabh Pant gave an indication of his match-winning ability when he scored the fastest ODI fifty in the U-19 team.
He then went on to become the fourth-youngest player to score a first-class triple-century (308 off 326 balls). Pant also scored the quickest first-class century by an Indian batsman, off 48 balls.
Pant was roped into the Indian team, and by November 2017, he had played a couple of T20Is for India. He also became Delhi’s captain in the Ranji Trophy. However, his form deserted him and he could only manage just one score of 50-plus in his last five first-class games.
The player's wicket-keeping technique too remained a concern and pundits criticised his shot-selection. The constant comparisons with MS Dhoni also did not help the young man's confidence.
India A were touring England in 2017 and this is where Pant impressed with his temperament. He was handed his Test debut following an injury to Wriddhiman Saha. While his keeping against the moving Dukes ball remained a cause of concern, he gave ample indication of his ability with the bat.
Pant soon became the only Indian wicketkeeper to notch up Test centuries in both England and Australia. However, with Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni in the reckoning, he was not able to nail down a spot in the ODI side with a few months to go to the 2019 World Cup.
Such was the pressure on Pant, that every time he fumbled, the crowds chanted MS Dhoni's name. This was a constant reminder of the hard yards he needed to put in.
Things were looking dire for Pant at the time - he scored just one half-century in 21 appearances in all limited-overs matches in 2019. To make matters worse, he started collecting balls in front of the stumps that resulted in no balls.
Pant's role in India's march to the WTC final
Despite having a mediocre IPL campaign in 2020, Pant was picked for the tour of Australia. After India had collapsed for 36 in the Adelaide Test, he replaced Wriddhiman Saha for the rest of the tour.
Pant helped draw the Sydney Test with a sparkling 97 and then, pulled off perhaps the biggest heist in Indian cricket with a superb 89 on the final day to win the Brisbane Test. This series win from a second-string Indian side played a crucial part in the side making it to the WTC final.
Pant's keeping had improved tremendously and he was collecting the balls with ease against both the quicks and the spinners. He was finally picked ahead of Saha even for the home Tests against England and was absolutely superb against the English spinners.
His counter-attacking batting style played a big part in India coming back from a 1-0 deficit to bag the series and progress to the WTC final.
After a stutter, a stumble and plenty of negativity, Rishabh Pant has proven his importance to the team. With 40 dismissals in 11 matches, he has been India's primary wicket-keeper in the WTC.
Pant is just behind New Zealand's BJ Watling when it comes to dismissals. It will be a battle between the two wicket-keepers when the teams face off at Southampton in the WTC final.