Rishabh Pant's entry into the Indian limited-overs side came as little surprise when the BCCI announced a 14-member ODI squad for the upcoming five-match series against the West Indies on Thursday, October 11.
Speaking to the media, chairman of selectors MSK Prasad said that the team management is looking at Pant not only as a batsman but if the need arises, also as a backup wicketkeeper.
In this regard, Prasad said it is a "no-brainer" as to who the first-choice wicketkeeper of the side is, referring to MS Dhoni. The other batsmen in the 14-member squad are Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, and KL Rahul.
Pant's inclusion makes him the latest in a long list of players the management has experimented with in order to solve the middle order dilemma.
In the approaching series, it is expected that Ambati Rayudu will slot in at number 4 after Dinesh Karthik faced the axe and Rishabh Pant might well make his debut against the West Indies in the absence of the injured Kedar Jadhav.
Speaking about Pant specifically, MSK Prasad said in the press conference, "In search of the second wicketkeeper, we have given opportunities to DK. Right now, we are giving opportunities to Rishabh Pant and we can take a call at an appropriate time who is the best among the two."
Thus, it can be assumed that Pant will get a run of games to prove himself despite Jadhav's imminent return.
Pant's Test route to ODI call-up
Pant made his international debut in the T20 format but failed to make his mark in the few opportunities he got.
He came back into the national fold as a backup wicketkeeper to Dinesh Karthik during India's tour of England and made his Test debut after the former failed to impress with the bat.
His impressive performances, which included a fourth innings century at Oval against England and a quickfire 92 against Windies in Rajkot, has landed him the ODI call-up.
Pant's presence opens up a few exciting options in the middle order of a batting line-up that is extremely top heavy. The Delhi stumper will most likely be selected ahead of Manish Pandey and is expected to bat at number six, sandwiched between Dhoni and Jadeja.
Pant's inclusion eases pressure on Dhoni
The possible move might turn out to be a huge blessing for Dhoni, given his penchant for building his innings slowly before taking off.
Although still a rookie in the international arena, Pant's IPL exploits against quality bowling will, no doubt, psychologically benefit Dhoni to go about his business without worrying about the run rate – a debate that has been doing the rounds lately.
Considering the dynamics of modern-day cricket where the balance is firmly tilted towards the batsmen, Jadhav's part-time ability with the ball makes him a strong candidate to take over the number six slot on his return.
However, the all-rounder's impending return may not signal the end of the road for Pant who had burst onto the scene primarily as a top order batsman.
He used to open for the India U-19 side and batted at number four for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, where he scored 684 runs in 14 games. Pant also possesses the solidity and temperament to bat in the top order having scored a first-class triple century batting at number five for his state side, Delhi.
Thus, while Pant's reputation makes him a candidate for the finishing job till Jadhav arrives, performances considered, he can also be a candidate for number 4 – a position of prime concern for India.