Delhi wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant has plenty of time to play his shots. The 18-year-old opener can pack a punch as well, as his fastest fifty in Under-19 internationals --- off 18 deliveries --- against Nepal in the Under-19 World Cup would testify.
Pant made an impressive Ranji debut in October with the bat and behind the wicket. When one talks to his coach, Tarak Sinha, the emphasis is on time. “Rishabh has a lot of time while batting. It’s the best thing that can happen to a batsman. If you have time, you will have multiple strokes for a delivery. When everyone was calling me after his fastest fifty, I explained the importance of this. Pant was blessed with this ability since he was a boy.”
At the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, Pant, besides his competent keeping, was India’s second highest run-scorer, aggregating 267 at an average of 44.50 with a century and two half-centuries.
Although he is watchful when with his coach, Pant opens up with teammates. Sinha once caught him off-guard, and in a lighter vein advised Pant to move with time. “Actually, he is an innocent guy from Roorkee. He likes to mix with his teammates and share jokes. But I saw that his teammates made fun of him because of his outdated jokes and the way he carried himself. So I joined the huddle and told him, time ke sath badlo beta (change with the times, son). Yeh Delhi hai, Roorkee nahi (This is Delhi, not Roorkee). Become smarter, otherwise you will be left behind.”
Many players who shine at the under-19 level find the transition to the senior level a big challenge. But Pant impressed as a top-order batsman on first-class debut in October. He scored a half-century as an opener in the second innings of that drawn Ranji Trophy game against Bengal at the Feroz Shah Kotla.