Rishabh Pant emerges as rightful successor to MS Dhoni

first_imgMS Dhoni is one of world cricket’s greatest ever match-winners. There can be no argument there. He burst on to the scene as an exciting wicketkeeper-batsman but it was one of those two skills that helped him grab headlines.As a wicketkeeper, young Dhoni was still a work in progress but his batting flair was just too hard to ignore. Towering sixes, fearless strokeplay and breathtaking consistency and the long hair. What was not to like about him?Soon enough, with the ‘Fab Five’ entering the last leg of their glorious careers, MS Dhoni was fast-tracked to the Indian captaincy. The boy from Jharkhand had arrived.READ – MS Dhoni faces the biggest test of his career as World Cup looms closerAnd success followed. A tri-nation series win in Australia, the World T20, the No.1 Test ranking, the 2011 World Cup, the 2013 Champions Trophy. India, under Dhoni, were unstoppable. MS Dhoni was a force to reckon with. His wicketkeeping was now dazzling. He was a legend.But India’s poor fortunes in Test cricket overseas put pressure on MS Dhoni. Indian cricket’s blue-eyed boy was under pressure to step up and do more. By the end of 2014, he had had enough. He decided to retire from Test cricket. In early 2017 plagued by a poor run with the bat, MS Dhoni stepped down as India’s captain in the shoter formats. Virat Kohli, his predecessor, believed that could be the catalyst for a last blast from MSD. And for a while, it did look like India had found the MS Dhoni of old. A hundred against England, a maiden T20I fifty and a sensational time with the bat in the 2018 IPL gave India hope. But all that did not translate into runs for India. In 20 ODIs this year, Dhoni scored only 275 runs at an average a shade over 25. Zero fifties.advertisementWorse was to follow. MS Dhoni was dropped from the T20I team. The selectors and the captain tried to word it nicely but it was clear the management wanted to try out an option.All this while Rishabh Pant, a young wicketkeeper from Delhi, staked his claim. His audacious strokeplay was the talking point since his under-19 days. By the time he stormed into the Indian domestic circuit and the IPL, Pant was earmarked for even bigger things. He stormed into the Test arena with a blistering hundred in England before identical scores of 92 in the Tests against the West Indies.READ – Rishabh Pant becomes the second youngest to score T20I fifty for IndiaOn Sunday, Pant became the second youngest Indian batsman to hit a T20I half-century as India chased down a tricky score against the Windies when the chips were down.For years, there was no one to challenge Dhoni. His contemporaries – Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel were nowhere near as consistent. Besides, they did not possess the hitting power and cricketing acumen of MSD. In a brief span of time, Rishabh Pant changed it all. It is yet to be seen how sharp his cricketing brain is but the Delhi boy is fearless. His shot-making sometimes makes you wonder if he thinks at all – the audacity comes so naturally to him. Given his style, he will get out looking rather silly at times but when he does come off, it would be a sight to behold.Rishabh Pant, in so many ways, reminds you of a younger Dhoni – daring, dashing and unflappable. He is yet to be tested under real pressure but the signs are good. He has not, in all fairness, got a long run in the one-day format, having played just three games.But he is a strong contender to be named as the back-up wicketkeeper in the World Cup. And if Pant continues to play those dazzling knocks and sharpens his wicketkeeping skills, it could become increasingly difficult to keep him out at the expense of a non-performing star.MS Dhoni is a contracted India cricketer and all emotions aside, he is expected to score runs. His achievements have been celebrated and lauded but with the World Cup a few months away, this is no time to rest on past laurels. Pant is banging the door down for a place in the ODI team and he has to be tried sooner than later.India will hope Dhoni finds his touch in Australia and New Zealand in the New Year.Time is running out and Pant is storming in.last_img read more