Rishabh Pant gets his Test capt
Rishabh Pant gets his Test cap from captain Virat Kohli (Pic Credit: BCCI)

Delhi wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant became the 291st Test player for India as he received his Test cap before the start of the 3rd Test against England at Trent Bridge on Saturday.

Pant, 20, was handed his Test cap by Indian captain Virat Kohli. The aggressive left-hander’s name was doing the rounds to replace Dinesh Karthik, who had failed to make any substantial contributions in the first two Tests at Edgbaston and Lord’s.

At Edgbaston, Karthik dropped a tough chance and made 0 and 20. At Lord’s, he took a very fine catch to deny Jonny Bairstow a century but scored 0 and 1.

At 33, Karthik is the epitome of the journeyman Indian cricketer, and played because Wriddhiman Saha is injured. He is not a player for the future, and his batting woes on tour have shifted the focus to Pant.

Pant announced his arrival to the big stage in 2016 with the fastest fifty in Under-19 World Cup history in Bangladesh and then made 111 off 96 balls in the quarter-finals.

He followed it up with a fantastic domestic debut season for Delhi finishing with the 2016-17 season with 972 runs from 12 innings at an average of 81 and strike-rate of 107.28, including four centuries, among them a triple-century against Maharashtra.

During the season, Pant hit the fastest hundred by an Indian batsman in first-class cricket during a Ranji Trophy game against Jharkhand. The century needed just 48 balls, beating the previous record of 56 balls by VB Chanderasekhar during the 1988-89 Irani Trophy. That century was Pant’s second of the match, following his 117 of 106 balls in Delhi’s second innings.

A tremendous Ranji Trophy ushered Pant into India’s T20I squad and he became the country’s youngest debutant in the format. While he has not been able to make a name for himself for India in T20Is – he four games have resulted in 73 runs at a strike-rate of 105.79 – Pant’s elevation to the India A squad that spent over a month in England this summer was further recognition of his talent.

He was named in the India A squad, coached by Rahul Dravid, after a strong IPL, in which he scored 684 runs in 14 matches at an average of 52.61 and strike-rate of 173.60 for Delhi Daredevils. The returns were consistent, chiefly in the tri-series final  which India A won, and then came a counter-attacking 67* off 71 balls to help script an eye-catching comeback win against West Indies A in a four-day match. Pant’s wicketkeeping was tidy (he had 17 dismissals on tour) and signed off with 58 and 61 in defeat to England Lions, which overlapped with the BCCI selectors naming him in an 18-man squad for the first three Tests against England.

After 23 first-class matches, Pant’s average stands at 54.50, with four centuries and eight half-centuries. India’s batsmen, barring Virat Kohli, have failed to deliver in four innings. Pant appears closer to a Test debut than he was a week ago.