Rishabh Pant ready to embrace stiff Australia challenge
Rishabh Pant (AFP Image)

India wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant has had quite an adventurous three months of his life. He received his maiden Test call-up during the tour of England and made an impact with seven catches in the first match itself. Then, with the series already lost, Pant scored a debut century at The Oval, ensuring his contributions were not overshadowed by India’s dismal 1-3 loss in the Tests.

An impressive show in England opened more the door to opportunities in the limited-overs fold too. Pant was handed his ODI debut during the recently-concluded five-match series against the West Indies, and although he didn’t have the best of series with the bat, scoring 17 and 24 in the two games he played, his 58 in the final T20I international was crucial in India sweeping West Indies 3-0.

With the high-profile Australia tour on the horizon, Pant, 20, is in for the stiffest test of his young cricketing career. About a year ago, no one would have envisioned Pant playing all three formats, with MS Dhoni and Wriddhiman Saha managing wicketkeeping duties. But the Bengal wicketkeeper’s shoulder injury and Dhoni’s poor form has offered Pant an opportunity like no other. Seven testing games lie ahead for him and Pant is ready to embrace the Aussie challenge.

“Ravi sir (coach Shastri) is constantly in touch over the phone. He keeps talking to me about the conditions and how cricket is played in Australia. Rohit (Sharma) bhaiya has told me to give myself some time to settle and then play my game. Mentally, I am already there,” Pant told Times of India.

With Dhoni at the twilight of his career, India were left to ponder the answer to a bankable wicketkeeper, and while Pant may be a long way off from being dependable, he is India’s next big hope behind the stumps. “I am not here to compete with anyone. For me, this phase is all about learning. I keep going up to Mahi bhai and pick up things,” Pant said. “If people tag me, it doesn’t mean I have to change. I improve in my own way and always focus on that. There were no spots in the team earlier. The moment there was a vacancy, I ensured I was performing.”

For Pant, playing Test cricket was one box he’s always wanted to get ticked. Opening his Test account with a six off Adil Rashid at Trent Bridge, Pant made an immediate impact, although he feels there is a long way to go.

“That six changed nothing in my life. No person can ever be judged by one shot… it’s always the kind of knocks he has played,” he said. “That I could play red-ball cricket was important too. My childhood coach Tarak Sinha always maintained that he would not consider me an international player unless I played Test cricket. To do it in England against such an attack was very important for me.”