Back in November, when the selectors announced the Indian squad for the T20I series against West Indies and Australia, the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni had left many fans and former cricketers bemused. But, amid all hue and cry, the former Indian captain clarified that he had excluded himself from the two series in order to allow young Rishabh Pant some much-needed gametime.
Dhoni further backed the youngster and called him his potential successor behind the stumps. And, if anyone witnessed Pant's exploits in the recently-concluded 1st Test between India and Australia, they'd agree that the Delhi cricketer didn't disappoint.
The scores of 25 & 28 (across the two innings) might not do justice to the left-hander, but, given the ever-changing match situations at the Adelaide Oval, Pant's knocks surely helped India's cause. He might not have scored a fifty or a hundred, but his biggest contribution in India's 31-run triumph, as predicted by Dhoni, came from behind the stumps.
Repaying the faith of Dhoni and the selectors, Pant made everyone proud by equalling the world record of most catches taken by a wicket-keeper in a single Test match. The Delhi cricketer took 11 catches against Australia in Adelaide and matched the heroics of Jack Russell and AB de Villiers - both of whom were earlier standing tall with the unique feat.
The 21-year-old caught six batsmen - Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood - in the first innings and then took five more catches in the second. Pant equalled the world record for most catches in a single Test in the 101th over when Mohammed Shami got Starc to edge one through to the Indian wicket-keeper.
For someone who considers Dhoni as his role model, Pant, then, came up with a brilliant tribute to the Jharkhand cricketer. "He's (Dhoni) the hero of the country. I've learnt a lot from him as a person and as a cricketer as well. Whenever he's around, I feel more confident as a person. If I've got any problems I can share it with him and get a solution right away," Pant told cricket.com.au.
"As a wicket-keeper and a player (he's taught me) to be patient in pressure situations like this (in Adelaide). You have to keep calm and keep composed and try to give 100 per cent," he added.
Talking about equalling the world record, Pant said: "I never thought of the record but it's good to take some catches and put it inside my kitty. It's good to have milestones, but I'm not thinking about that too much".