At the end of November and into December, India take on Australia in a series of limited-overs matches in Sydney and Canberra.
The squads have already been announced, and Virat Kohli has confirmed the set of players who will feature in the ODIs, the T20s or both.
Selected for the shortest format, Rishabh Pant is notable by his absence from the 50-over set-up, and you wonder if that is an indication that his time in the longer form of the game is over, for now, as far as the India hierarchy are concerned.
Indeed, his place in the T20 side could be in jeopardy given the form of Wriddhiman Saha in the IPL, and the hope for any neutrals is that this supremely talented but complicated individual is not lost to international cricket forever.
This is a 23-year-old who once owned the highest individual score from an Indian in the IPL – 128 not out – which has since been usurped, he is the only Indian wicketkeeper to score test centuries in England and Australia, and he became the fastest Indian wicketkeeper to effect 50 test dismissals back in 2019.
Setting records of the longest form of the game and with a handsome batting average of 38.76, Pant’s place in the Indian test side is confirmed. But in the shorter format? He needs to become more consistent, but with Australia set to be favourites in the outright series winner cricket betting odds later this year, Kohli needs to find a way to get a young man with the ‘X factor’ into his starting eleven.
“First of all, you have to stop saying that Rishabh Pant is the next MS Dhoni. That is one thing which media needs to stop doing it. The more media talks about it, the more Rishabh Pant starts thinking on those chances. He can never be MS Dhoni. He has to be Rishabh Pant.”
Those are wise words from Gautham Gambhir, and perhaps such expectations have had an impact on Pant in limited-overs cricket specifically. It’s clear he’s innovative and can hit a big ball too, but consistency has eluded him and he has been shuttled up and down batting orders as a suitable role is sought.
The main issue for the 23-year-old is that he is a risk-taker – that is the glass-half-full mindset anyway. Others would call him reckless, and that inability to pace an innings in the shorter formats have been his major obstacle.
His flashy nature does not adhere Pant to cricket’s purists, and there’s even a Facebook page dedicated to celebrating his failures with the bat or the gloves. That shows the heights that the left-hander is going to have to climb in order to win over the doubters.
But, in the past, Kohli has shown a willingness to embrace dysfunctional sorts who don’t play the game in conventional fashion, and while that remains the case the door won’t be shut on Pant in ODIs or in T20s if Saha is given the nod. When the penny drops, he might just be the difference-maker for India in Australia and beyond.