Four Wicket-Keepers Who Can Replace Faltering Rishabh Pant in T20s
In 27 T20I matches, Rishabh Pant averages a below par 20.45 and has effected just nine dismissals.
There aren’t too many cricketers who enjoy the support of their captain, coach and chief selector while going through a rough patch in international cricket. But, given the talent at his disposal, Rishabh Pant has earned the right to be backed to the hilt.
Unlike most wicket-keepers, Pant’s ability to accelerate with the bat does help him stand out, but his keeping skills have, unfortunately, come under the radar once too often.
It hasn’t been quite the run that Pant would have wanted in international cricket, not after those stellar tons in Australia and England. But with the T20 World Cup just over 10 months away, the southpaw has to improve on his glove work if he wants the chants of ‘Mahendra Singh Dhoni’ to subside in the crowd when he takes the field.
From dropping catches to failing to stop byes, Pant’s record behind the stumps has been abysmal in his short career so far. To add on to it, filling in the shoes of the former India captain only seems to have increased the pressure on the 22-year-old.
Unlike his counterpart in the Test squad, Pant cannot hope to survive in the side donning just one role for the team. Wriddhiman Saha, even on lean days with the bat, produces such magic behind the wickets for the side, that unless he’s injured or rested, it’s unthinkable for someone else to take up the duty.
But for Pant, who is currently India’s No 1 keeper in the shorter formats of the game, saving runs is as important a factor as scoring them. And there as well, he’s prone to gift his wicket away, owing to shoddy shot selection.
Given it won’t be long before Pant is handed a break if such a show continues, here’s a look at a few names who are waiting by the wings to replace the explosive left-handed batsman, as the team gears up for the showpiece event of the year.
It may not be a progressive move to turn to 34-year-old Dinesh Karthik to eke India out of the problem but the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper does have a case for himself.
Besides years of experience that he brings with him, Karthik’s keeping skills too are better than that of Pant – a claim backed by none other than chief selector MSK Prasad, who threw his weight behind the Tamil Nadu veteran when he picked him as the reserve keeper for the World Cup in England last year.
However, quite like MS Dhoni, Karthik too hasn’t played international cricket since India’s loss in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand and it might take some time before he settles back in the squad.
Although he’s lean on international experience, the selectors may want to play a punt on Sanju Samson if Pant fails to impress over the next couple of months. Unlike Karthik, Samson is young and can be a long-term prospect for the men-in-blue.
On the back of an impressive season in Vijay Hazare trophy, Samson had earned a call-up to the Indian T20I squad against Bangladesh and West Indies albeit failed to get a game. He is also in the squad for the ongoing series against Sri Lanka.
A talented wicket-keeper, Samson is lurking on the wings for quite some time and has been impressive in the T20 format, including a century to show for in the 2019 edition of the IPL.
Pant’s captain in the under-19 World Cup side in 2016, Ishan Kishan, is one of the prime contenders for the spot. He has been having a decent run in the domestic circuit and for India A, but while his vice-captain in the biennial event has gone on to play 11 Tests, 15 ODIs and 27 T20Is, Kishan is yet to earn a national cap.
However, in terms of cricketing skills, Kishan is quite similar to Pant – both young and aggressive left-handed batsmen – and thus can be tried out by the selectors as well. In 76 T20s so far, Kishan has scored 1714 runs at an average of 24.84 besides an impressive strike rate of 130.83. He also has two centuries under his belt, besides effecting 50 dismissals.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Although he’s on a sabbatical since the World Cup and isn’t getting younger by the day, one of the reasons Mahendra Singh Dhoni has perhaps not called time on his career yet is because he’s the best option Virat Kohli can opt for in case Pant fails.
In the last IPL, Dhoni had shown he still has it in him to don the role of a perfect finisher and the Indian think-tank would be a relieved lot if Dhoni could produce a final flourish.
He just needs another good season of the IPL to reiterate the claim, given his glove work and managerial skills from behind the stumps are second to none in the country at the moment.
His experience, one that includes leading India to win three ICC tournaments, is also a factor that pips him ahead of the rest of the lot. However, he certainly can’t be a long-term solution owing to his age and the selectors would be well aware before turning to him.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.