He is just 20 years old. And yet, Rishabh Pant has been seen as the next big thing in Indian cricket for a while now. The wicket-keeper batsman is an exciting talent and has shown great form in domestic and first-class cricket over the last couple of years.
With Wriddhiman Saha's injury and Dinesh Karthik's inability to make his chances count, Pant's inclusion in the Test team was the obvious next step. The Delhi boy made his debut in the Nottingham Test against England earlier this month and managed to leave a distinct impression.
In only the second ball he faced in international Test cricket, Pant danced down the track to spinner Rashid Ali and smacked him down the ground for a cracking six over long-on, thus becoming the 12th batsman in Test Cricket history to hit a six to get off the mark in his debut Test. And though Pant couldn't carry on much after that shot – he was dismissed for 24 – he looked confident and positive in his stay at the wicket.
What's more is that he did fairly well behind the stumps as well. The costly dropped catch of Jos Butler apart, Pant pouched five catches in his first Test innings - only the fourth Indian wicket-keeper to do so on Test debut.
Farookh Engineer, one of India's most eminent wicket-keepers ever, lauded Pant after his performance in his debut Test. "I'm very impressed, he has tremendous reflexes," he was quoted as saying to Hindustan Times. "I love to see youngsters make a mark. He didn't show any nerves and hit the second ball for a six. My first three balls I faced in Test cricket, I hit them for fours, but that was out of sheer nervousness."
Engineer, however, added that Pant needs to polish his wicket-keeping skills a bit to excel at the highest level. He feels that Pant tends to get up too soon and hence to make minor adjustments. The Indian team management would do well to listen to this advice and ensure that Pant is honed properly.
For while his wicket-keeping skills might be average, he has some extraordinary batting talent which cannot be ignored. Pant, who first made his name with an impressive performance in the 2016 U-19 World Cup and followed it up by amassing 972 runs in his debut Ranji Trophy season later that year, has shown the ability to excel in all formats and against all kinds of bowlers.
Yes, he will make mistakes and it will be up to the Indian team management to ensure that he doesn't veer off his path or let the attention get to his head. Because Rishabh pant is a precious talent. He has the ability to be a prospective game-changer for India down the order. The team needs to nurture him and allow him to blossom to his full potential.