India's search for a left-handed Virender Sehwag who could change the game in a matter of overs and serve as a like-for-like replacement for Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed to have ended when the young Rishabh Pant burst onto the scene.
Delhi Capitals invested heavily in the young talent after a series of dismal performances in the IPL. Rishabh Pant was roped in by the franchise for Rs 1.9 crore in 2016 and he didn't disappoint. He smashed his first half century in just 25 balls during IPL 2016. He backed it up with impressive performances one after the other.
Rishabh Pant's exclusion from the Indian squad for World Cup 2019 sparked a huge controversy. Cricket pundits around the world were critical of the Indian selection committee for not including the left handed match winner in the side.
Cricketing legends like Kevin Pietersen, Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting expressed their disbelief at the decision made by the selection board. However, injuries to the players included in the squad allowed young Rishabh Pant to display his heroics on the biggest cricketing stage. A few rash shots, a 30-35 run cameo and that was it. Rishabh wasn't capitalizing on the chances given to him and was getting out after attempting outrageous shots.
Ricky Ponting's faith in Rishabh Pant never dwindled. The head coach of Delhi Capitals was adamant that Rishabh deserves more chances in the Indian jersey. Ricky Ponting claimed that the X factor Rishabh brings into the team must be valued.
Rishabh's inclusion in the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2018-19 proved to be a good selection as he went on to amass more than 350 runs in the series including a breathtaking 159 which powered India to a historic win against the Aussies.
It appeared that Rishabh Pant had established himself as India's go to wicket keeping batsman at least in the longer format. But Rishabh Pant has been put under the scanner for not performing well behind the stumps. With Wriddhiman Saha on the sidelines and a number of errors made by Pant at crucial intervals behind the stumps forced the team management to look past him.
Pant was always in and around the Indian squad but wasn't able to cement his place in any of the three formats. With Sanju Samson making a very strong case for his selection and Saha making good contributions with the bat for Sunrisers, Pant's career was going down hill.
Unhappy IPL 2020
A disastrous IPL 2020 for Pant forced the selectors to go for Sanju Samson and K.L Rahul instead of Pant in the limited overs matches against Australia. However, Pant was included in the Test squad. Wriddhiman Saha was clearly India's first choice in Tests as Pant was not included in the playing eleven in the first Test at Adelaide.
Pant again proved that Ponting was absolutely right in keeping faith in the youngster after he made a match saving 97 in the third test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2020-21. However, the catches he dropped during the game again allowed experts to question his keeping technique.
But what Rishabh Pant achieved in the final test at the Gabba was beyond everyone's imagination. He scored a series winning 89 on a day 5 pitch after facing 138 balls. Pant waited for the bad balls to play his shots and defended the good ones.
Coming of age
This knock is by far the best Pant has ever played but even in the final moments, when the runs required were in single figures, he attempted a few rash shots which might have easily led to the fall of his wicket.
Rishabh Pant is a match winner who has his own way of dealing with the game. On his day, he might look to be the most dangerous batsman in the world who is middling everything. However, he had made it a habit to play innovative shots when the situation did not demand it.
The Rishabh Pant, who was letting chances slip away, is a different person from the from the player who batted in the final Test against Australia at the Gabba. 64.49 is not the strike rate with which he normally bats. He generally throws his bat at loopy deliveries outside off stump but against Nathan Lyon, he was extremely patient.
All in all, Rishabh Pant has seen many ups and downs in his relatively young career. He is just 23 now and his performance in the Border-Gavaskar trophy proves that he is here to stay.