Over the last few days, there has been plenty of discussion over whether Rishabh Pant can captain Team India in the near future. The debate arose after Pant did quite well while leading Delhi Capitals (DC) in IPL 2021. In fact, DC were the table-toppers with six wins and two losses from eight games when the T20 league was suspended over COVID-related bio-bubble breach. According to former India stumper Saba Karim, while Pant has a refreshing attitude towards the game, it is too early to decide on whether the youngster can go on to lead India. Kiran More and Pragyan Ojha, however, believe that the Delhi cricketer has it in him to lead India in the times to come.
Sharp mind, young legs
As Karim said, it is still early days in Pant’s international career. But, from what has been on display till now, it can be assumed that the wicketkeeper-batsman is definitely a future captaincy candidate for India. Pant has a sharp cricketing brain, which has been evident in Australia as well as at home against England. When India were in trouble Down Under, Pant played two audacious knocks. One in Sydney saved them from defeat and the other at the Gabba lifted them to a historic triumph.
Enough has been spoken about those two innings. But, the major takeaway from it was that Pant is not just a slogger but a proper attacking batsman. Until his heroics in Australia, the southpaw was seen as someone exceedingly talented, who was just not living up to potential. However, in the series Down Under, Pant proved that there was more to him than brawny power. He calculated his knocks precisely, decided which bowler to attack and when. There was a certain method to his madness that stood out for the first time in Pant’s international career.
Pant’s performance in Australia also proved that he likes leading the way, a must-have attribute among captains. The youngster was under immense pressure going into the series. He wasn’t even chosen for the disastrous first Test in Adelaide, when India were routed for 36. However, when he got his opportunity, he took the bull by the horns. Pant could either have sunk under the burden of expectations or swam out a hero. He did the latter and in a rather emphatic fashion. After the great work in Australia, he continued his improvement against England at home as well, not only with the bat, but behind the stumps as well, winning even more admirers.
Right time to start grooming Pant
As of now, Virat Kohli is doing a good job as captain of the Indian team. And when he is not around, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane (in Tests) have taken on the mantle temporarily and have done credible jobs. However, India need to start keeping an eye on the future from now itself and start grooming the next captain. From all the options available, Pant seems the best choice, if he carries on his great run. He is young, energetic and willing to go that extra mile.
Kohli’s international career will possibly end in three-four years unless he maintains supreme fitness. Rohit is the next deserving choice as captain, but it is likely that he will retire at around the same time as Kohli. Rohit is already 34 while the Indian skipper will turn 33 in November this year. Also, Rohit is yet to completely establish himself as a Test batsman. KL Rahul is also considered captaincy material, but his Test career too is at the crossroads.
Considering all the permutations and combinations, Pant seems the right choice as the next Team India captain. Of course, he still has a lot to prove in the international arena. After all, these are only early days in his career. But he has got the basics in place. It’s all about him developing now – into a greater batsman, a better keeper and, possibly, a standout leader.