Ever since MS Dhoni called time on his Test career, the Indian selectors have been busy trying to fill in the void. They've tried Wriddhiman Saha who did quite an impressive job in the longest format. Then, we saw the ascension of Dinesh Karthik to the Indian team. And now, young Rishabh Pant is being looked upon as Dhoni's worthy successor behind the stumps.
Amongst the available options, Dhoni, himself, had backed Pant as his potential successor when he dropped himself from the Indian squad for the Twenty20 International (T20I) series against Australia last November. For a man who considers Dhoni his idol, Pant appeared to have thrived in the limited opportunities he has got in the Indian team so far.
His batting prowess surely makes him a valuable addition to the Indian team down the order. But, sadly, the same can't be said about his wicket-keeping skills. At the age of just 21, Pant is still young and continues to learn the art of wicket-keeping. However, with the ICC World Cup around the corner, the margin for error is very low for the youngster.
While many have advocated Pant's case in the recent past, the 4th One-Day International (ODI) between India and Australia gave a stark reminder why he is still a work in progress as far as wicket-keeping is concerned. The clash in Mohali saw India losing, what is being deemed as an unlosable game, as Australia chased down the fifth-highest target (359 runs) in ODI cricket.
From misreading the conditions to missing key chances, there were a flurry of mistakes Indian cricket team find themselves pondering over as Aussies fought back from being 0-2 to 2-2 in the five-match series. While Kedar Jadhav missed a tough chance at deep midwicket in the 47th over, Shikhar Dhawan put down an absolute dolly at mid-off in the same over. However, amongst the lost opportunities, Pant's blunders were arguably the ones that ended up hurting India's chances the most at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium.
In the 39th over, Peter Handscomb had already notched up his maiden ODI hundred and was eager to take the momentum away from India when he decided to step out of the crease, looking for a big shot. Realising Handscomb's intentions, Kuldeep Yadav shortened his length and ensured the batsman missed the ball. But, it was Pant's inability to collect the ball cleanly to effect the stumping that gave a crucial lifeline to Handscomb as Kuldeep and a packed Mohali stadium watched in disbelief.
Pant's mistakes...!! pic.twitter.com/qyo9Kpkdox— Vidshots (@Vidshots1) March 10, 2019
But, it was the 44th over that left the Indian team, owing to Pant's blunders, completely red-faced. The first delivery of Yuzvendra Chahal's over saw Pant fluffing another stumping opportunity that could've surely sent dangerous-looking Turner back into the hut. Disheartened by the lost chance, Chahal bowled the third delivery right into the blockhole as Alex Carey just about managed to squeeze it away from the stumps. But, Pant's effort to pull-off Dhoni's 'No Look' throw converted a dot ball into a single.
October 26, 2016
The fourth delivery of the same over saw Turner charging down the track only to get beaten wide outside the off-stump. Making amends for his mistake, Pant successfully managed to grab the ball this time around and jumped in appeal for a potential caught behind dismissal. Pant's confidence that the Aussie had edged the ball convinced Virat Kohli to review and even as the replays showed a noticeable spike on 'Ultra-Edge', the third umpire deemed it not out and called for a wide.
While Pant should hardly be blamed for the last opportunity as there was actually a spike in replays, the other three blunders undoubtedly proved costly for his team's chances to win the game and seal the series. Though Pant is still young and needs time to establish himself as India's go-to wicket-keeper, the left-hander must learn to work on his strengths rather than copying Dhoni's artistry with the gloves.
In the two stumping opportunities he missed, Pant was so eager to whip the bails off that he almost forgot to collect it in the first place. Dhoni's lightening quick glovework is a technique derived through impeccable hand-eye coordination, developed over years of hard work. Similarly, when Pant tried to pull off Dhoni's 'No Look' throw, he looked very casual - something that further evoked a strong reaction from his captain on the field.
It's one thing to idolise someone, but, to become like them, is an uphill battle that takes time. Pant might have pulled off Dhoni's unorthodox style of wicket-keeping a million times in the practice sessions. But if you can't do it correctly in crunch situations during a key clash, then, the wise thing would be to stick to the basics, rather than being flamboyant - a lesson Pant must learn to live up to his billing as Dhoni's successor behind the stumps.