Six months can be a lot in sports, and Indian selectors drafting in young keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant as reserve keeper in the squad for the first three Tests against England on Wednesday can be held up as a prime example.
Pant, still only 20, has established himself as an explosive batsman, although late last year, he was among the pretenders to MS Dhoni’s limited-overs throne that were brushed aside by chief selector, MSK Prasad, himself a former India stumper.
However, his inclusion indicates a sea change in the selectors’ view. Included only for the one-day fixtures of India ‘A’ in their current England tour running parallel to the senior side, Pant was added in the side for the four-day match too, suggesting he was in the mix after Test stumper Wriddhiman Saha’s injury layoff.
Pant scored a fighting half-century in an otherwise poor show by India A against England Lions at Worcester on Wednesday, and has been named as understudy to Dinesh Karthik. Pant’s 58 failed to save India A the blushes, but his inclusion in the Test side for the first time caps a productive season.
When Prasad announced Dhoni had no challengers yet last year, Rishabh responded that he doesn’t want to think too much about it and just wants to perform. There have been some questions about his technique, but his batting in white-ball cricket has been exceptional. It is perhaps his aggressive batting that helped pip Parthiv Patel.
“He is exceptional and was playing for India A in England. But he could have been drafted in for the ODIs or T20s in the lead-up to this series. Having said that, it is good they are investing in him and carrying him with the team. He has the potential to be as dangerous as Adam Gilchrist batting at No 6 and 7,” said More.
Cautioning against drawing early conclusions on Pant, he said a keeper’s life was very tough. “They should carry him. He has the talent. A wicketkeeper’s life is very difficult. I felt it was very harsh on Parthiv (to be dropped after Tests in South Africa). One bad Test and everybody starts pointing a finger at wicketkeepers. Parthiv provides options, like opening the batting.”
Pant was the lone ranger for Delhi Daredevils in IPL, scoring 684 runs at an average of over 52. His Ranji season was a bit below par despite Delhi making the final – 315 at an average of 35 with just one half-century. However, in the previous season he grittily led a fractured Delhi dressing room and racked up 972 runs at 81 with four centuries and two fifties.