India has had a rich vein of history when it comes to strength in the batting department. In the land of the great Sachin Tendulkar, the batsmen are always going to be the superstars in the country. The latest to grab the limelights is Rishabh Pant. The Indian contingent is going gaga over the left-hander’s charismatic batting that he recently showcased in the Indian Premier League.
Pant first came to the fore in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup. He announced himself after his explosive batting at the top grabbed the attention of the cricketing fraternity. Well, it was just the beginning. He was picked to play for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL in the same year. Although he didn’t have a particularly great season yet he certainly made a name for himself at the big stage.
The left-hander then went on to climb the ladder of success from there on. Playing for Delhi, he scored a triple century in the Ranji Trophy and became the third youngest Indian to do so. To add to the list, he scored the fastest century in the league off just 48 balls. The tremendous home season earned him a spot in the T20 series against England earlier this year where he got to face just 3 deliveries in the solitary game he played.
A tremendous IPL 2017
The 10th edition of the IPL arrived and so did the golden time for Pant. The Delhi-lad impressed one and all with his terrific batting display throughout the season. Pant was one of the very few bright spots for the Daredevils who had a rather dismal time in the tournament. But the biggest gain for them and indeed for India was the emergence of the wicketkeeper-batsman.
In 14 matches, he amassed 366 runs at an average of 26.14. The most eye-catching aspect of his batting was the strike rate of 165.61. He came out all guns blazing and went after the bowlers from the outset more often than not. The knock of 97 against Gujarat Lions was perhaps the best of the whole season by any player. The ease with which he smacked sixes to the fierce pacers and add to that, the left-hander’s elegance, it was a sight to watch for any cricket fan.
There were speculations that he might be picked for the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy but he narrowly missed out. But the youngster didn’t have to wait for long as he was selected for the squad that toured the Windies. His selection in the senior side does indicate that the team management has him in the consideration and wants to groom the batsman for the future.
Could he be the second Gilchrist?
Adam Gilchrist and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are probably the 2 best wicketkeepers to have ever graced the game of cricket. Rishabh Pant seems to have a lot in common with the Australian maestro. The fact that both are left-handers, top order batsmen and explosive in nature, induces the comparison between the two.
Although it’s too early to even think about Pant being on the same grounds as Gilchrist, the traces are surely there. The Australian was a severe attacker and used to pose a fear in the minds of the bowlers. Pant, in the recent IPL too, looked like doing the same. Is he as good as Gilchrist? Only time will tell. But does he have the potential? There is absolutely no denying the fact there is an abundance of that.
Tough to replace Dhoni
MS Dhoni has been a great servant of Indian cricket for over a decade. The former captain has achieved everything that is there to be achieved. He took the country’s cricket to an altogether a new level that it hadn’t seen in the past. But in the past couple of years, the prowess has definitely diminished a bit. Even though he is still good enough to be a part of any XI in the world yet he is nowhere close to what he used to be in his prime.
At the moment, it seems like Dhoni is pitching in for the 2019 ODI World Cup. Pant is definitely the front runner to take Dhoni’s place once he decides to hang his boots. In Test cricket though, Wriddhiman Saha is holding the fort and is doing a pretty good job at that. But he is also 32-years of age and may not be around for a long after a few years.
But you never know, if Pant performs consistently well in the domestic cricket and whatever international exposure he gets, he could be the next regular wicketkeeper for India across all formats. But the task to fill in the shoes of Dhoni is no joke. He has been a stalwart of Indian cricket for so long and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to replace him, leave alone Pant.
But Pant has the age by his side. He is only starting his career and has ample amount of cricket left in him. But the grooming has to start now. If he carries on the good work for the years to come, he has the potential to become the next big thing in Indian cricket. Let’s hope he reaches where we all want him to see.
Above all, one thing is certain that the legacy of India’s batting does not seem to end pretty soon with a batsman like Rishabh Pant.
P Sara Oval, Colombo
Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua
County Ground, Derby
Sabina Park, Jamaica
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