It was 2018, 11th season of the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL). A 20-year old marauding Rishabh Pant walks down the 22-yard strip at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium with his team, Delhi Daredevils, struggling at 52 for 3. But what followed was a sheer genius of display. Pant tore apart perhaps the most celebrated bowling attack of the league smashing 128 not out off 63 balls, leaving many jaws hanging.
Cricket pundits still consider his knock as the innings of the tournament. In the process, he became the second youngest cricketer to score a century and youngest to reach a milestone of 1000 runs in IPL history. Was this the game changer innings that caught the eye of the selectors? We really don’t know.
The southpaw has been consistent in the first class cricket as well, where he has scored at an average of 54.16 in 22 matches. His back-to-back fifties for India A team against England Lion shows he is ready for the top format of the game.
Going by the selection of Suresh Raina among others, it seems the IPL is playing a huge part when it comes to selecting players for the international cricket. Come 1st August and we might see Pant debuting for the Indian test team.
The promising wicket-keeper batsman has been inducted into the Indian test squad for the first three matches of the five match Test series in England, and rightly so considering the other ageing wicket-keepers—Dinesh Karthik, Wridhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel—we have. In the absence of team’s first choice, Saha, it might be the best chance for him to prove his mettle on the field. However, for all his brilliance at home, Pant will be up against a quality bowling attack in seeming conditions unlike India where the wickets aren’t conducive to fast bowlers bowling.
Having recognised by many as the long-standing replacement of veteran batsman M.S. Dhoni, it has been a tall order for Pant due to the likes of Karthik, Patel and Saha. It’s a crucial juncture and the Indian team management needs to look ahead to the future. He should definitely be considered ahead of the other three owing to his destructive approach at the top of the order and watchful eyes behind the stumps.
Currently, Indian team looks quite a balanced side. Perhaps the only chink in their armour has been an absence of a wicket-keeper batsman post the retirement of MS Dhoni. The middle order conundrum has become a bone of contention in all the three formats for the Indian team, and Pant might be the answer we all are looking for.