Not quite from zero to hero, but Rishabh Pant has certainly catapulted himself into the position of India’s first-choice Test wicketkeeper-batsman. He’s undoubtedly a talent to put derrières sur les sieges in Southampton and empty bars when he comes in to bat.
Pant has been in terrific form. His heroics in the Test series Down Under and then against England in India have made him the pick for India’s England tour, which begins with the World Test Championship final against New Zealand from June 18 at the Ageas Bowl.
In an interview with cricket.com, the former India chief selector, MSK Prasad, has heaped praise on Pant and highlighted his evolution as a dynamic player in front of and behind the stumps. Prasad said many people didn’t believe that Pant would turn into such a good cricketer.
“That’s why we talk about succession,” he said. “When we picked this guy, there was a lot of controversy. People said that he can’t bat in Test cricket and can’t keep on challenging wickets. So, what has happened today? See, how he kept wickets against England at home. And the way he batted in challenging batting conditions like England and Australia.
“The role of the selector is to identify the potential. Many people never believed that Pant would be so good.”
Prasad was quick to acknowledge that Pant had overtaken Wriddhiman Saha. “Initially, when we picked Pant in the squad, Saha was the best keeper in the country purely because of his keeping skills,” he said. “Later, we all accepted the fact that Pant will keep wickets in away series because your keeping skills are not tested much and batting skills become more important.
“With the stellar performances in Australia, Pant has convinced the team management that he needs to be backed even at home and immediately the way he kept wickets against England this year was there for all to see.”
While he’s a player to stir the emotions, Pant is building a CV to put statistics behind his undoubted debonair dash. With the gloves, along with Jack Russell and AB de Villiers, he’s one of only three keepers to take 11 catches in a match, a feat achieved in Adelaide in 2018. He’s also nudged himself into the 300 runs and 15 wicketkeeping dismissals club – not quite as exclusive as the 11 catches club, but it becomes a lot more so if you consider that Pant’s feat was in the four-Test Border/Gavaskar Trophy of 2018-19, whereas many others needed a five-Test series to be accepted as members.
In the series win against Australia in 2020-21, he played the role of both match saviour in Sydney with his 97 and matchwinner in Brisbane, with and undefeated 89 to guide India home.
England may have surprised India first-up in Chennai, but Pant still blasted 91 at more than a run a ball to power India from 73 for four to 225 for six. Thereafter, he become one their chief tormentors, averaging 54 in the series and playing defining knocks in both Chennai and Ahmedabad, where his 101 came off a blistering 118 balls with 13 fours and two sixes. England had wrecked India’s highly rated top order, with ducks for both Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli, only to have no answer to Pant in full flow.
Following Kane Williamson’s enterprising declaration at Lord’s, it would be hard to imagine a side with Pant at their disposal spurning a tilt at a target of 273 runs in 75 overs. Expect Pant to further cement his place as India’s first choice this summer.