Rishabh Pant has enjoyed a fabulous 2016/17. With a fantastic Ranji Trophy season and an immediate call-up in the Indian Premier League, Pant’s rise to superstardom was complete when he was selected in the Indian Twenty20 International squad for the England series. His selection caps a tremendous journey for this 19-year-old batsman from Uttarakhand. (Yuvraj Singh back in India ODI and T20I squad, Virat Kohli appointed captain)
In the 2016/17 season, the 19-year-old was the fourth highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy with 972 runs from eight matches at an average of 81. While others played more games and accumulated more runs, Pant’s figures have a tale to tell.
The youngster grabbed eyeballs when he had slammed 308 against Maharashtra earlier this season, but against Jharkhand in Thumba, he ensured that the spotlight would be fixed on him. He scored a fantastic 82-ball ton in the first innings and followed it up with another century knock in the second — this time off 48 balls. The century wasn’t just the fastest in the history of Ranji Trophy, but also the fastest by an Indian in first-class matches.
However, his former U-19 teammate Ishan Kishan’s 273 had already punctured Delhi’s hopes as they could collect only a single point from the game. But the promising batsman-wicketkeeper had already done enough to be on the radar of the national selectors.
Pant was a part of the Indian team that reached the finals of the U-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. His notable moment in the tournament was 78 in the league game against Nepal. Those runs were made in just 24 balls, but he achieved his fifty in just 18 balls, the fastest in U-19 cricket.
Pant slammed another century (111 off 96 balls) in the quarter-final against Namibia, his third consecutive fifty-plus score in the tournament. The performance fetched him a tag of 1.9 crore in the IPL auction later in the day. While his base price was only 10 lakhs, his form had convinced the selectors of Delhi Daredevils of his potential. He played 10 matches in the IPL, scoring 169 runs, including a highest score of 69 that helped Delhi Daredevils win against Gujarat Lions.
When the Ranji call-up came, it was no looking back. He blasted his way to the top, and was a familiar name following those fiery knocks. In the league stages of the Ranji Trophy, Pant got runs at a staggering rate of 107.28 with 49 sixes.
With his selection, Pant’s wicket-keeping skills will have to be enhanced. Dhoni is 35 and might call it a day soon and thus there is plenty of opportunity to break through the ranks. He has competition for a position that already has Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha waiting in the ranks.