Rishabh Pant was, once again, under the scanner following his performance in the opener in New Delhi. But at Rajkot, Pant's mistake was unescapable to the eyes of cricket fraternity as his textbook error granted new life to Liton Das in the sixth over. The rule is simple - wicketkeeper should always collect the ball without any part of his gloves being ahead of the stumps. It is probably part of wicketkeeping 101. But on Thursday evening, Pant had grabbed the ball marginally ahead of the stumps after the googly from Yuzvendra Chahal had beaten Das. The delivery was considered a no-ball and Das had managed a boundary off the next ball. Pant, as usual, became a subject of meme on social media sites amid comparisons with his predecessor MS Dhoni.
However, despite the endless comparisons and criticisms, former Indian wicketkeeper, Deep Dasgupta reckons that it would be too harsh, and rather foolish for people to write him off. Talking to India TV in an exclusive interview, Dasgupta said that Pant would learn with time and age and urged people to stop comparing the youngster with a legend.
“With time and experience and age, he will learn it, but there are other things that can be done and maybe wicketkeepers should start doing that. But having said that, you can’t hold it against him completely. Yes, there are some people who are better at making DRS judgements, and some aren’t. And every time something like that happens, people start talking about MS Dhoni, the crowd start chanting MS Dhoni. MS Dhoni became MS Dhoni after 10 to 12 years. You can’t compare someone who is playing third-tier of international cricket with someone who is a legend and who has been around 15 years. I feel, at times, people are way too harsh on Pant,” said Dasgupta.
It wasn't for the first time that Pant has witnessed such circumstances. Since making his international debut at the age of 17, Pant has been touted to be the next Dhoni. And over the two years, the comparisons have grown so strong that crowd, even at his home ground, have chanted "Dhoni! Dhoni!" each time he commits an error.
On being asked if such behaviour of the crowd could cause pressure on the youngster, Dasgupta said, “Because he is 21, this is a great schooling for him. It will either make him or break him. And I hope it makes him. Yes, it is never going to be easy. And like I said, he is a 21-year-old who is trying to fill the shoes of a legend. But if he can learn from the situation, it will be great for him.”
“He was the first preference and he is still the first preference in the shorter format and he needs to grab his opportunities. And let say he doesn’t and Sanju or KL or whoever comes in his place. He is still 21. It's not like he is 31 or 32 and this could be sort of his last opportunity. So, I don’t see why you should write him off. It would be foolish,” he added.
Not just with his wicketkeeping, Pant has been struggling with the bat as well. In the format that gave him recognition, Pant has managed only 195 runs in 11 innings in 2019 at 21.66 with only one fifty-plus score. In fact, despite his impressive record in domestic cricket and in the Indian Premier League, Pant’s T20I career average stands at 20.70.
Dasgupta admitted that Pant, despite having immense talent and potential, is failing to grab the opportunities thrown at him.
“The same guy who was starting like a champion in Test cricket and was batting like a million dollar in the last IPL. Obviously, it has got nothing to do with talent or potential. Obviously, it is the mind thing. So, it will be unfair on my part to comment on the same thing on what he is thinking and how is he thinking. He has got talent. Even his harshest critique will admit that. But he is not grabbing his opportunities and he is not making it count. Although that is not because of lack of talent,” he added.
For Pant, he has already been introduced to his competitor for the wicketkeeping spot in the limited-overs cricket. While Wriddhiman Saha made the most of his comeback opportunity last month in the Test series against South Africa, Sanju Samson was added as the back-up option for the T20I contest against Bangladesh.
However, Dasgupta feels unperturbed by the competition. He feels, “It is not going to be end of the world for Pant. This is a situation that will make him or break him.”