October 22, 2015 would see a boy from Uttarakhand make his first-class debut for Delhi against Bengal.
Alongside keeping, Rishabh Pant would bat in the top three on debut, scoring 28 batting at first drop, 57 when opening the batting, and take three catches behind the stumps. Pant would only play two games for Delhi in their 2015-16 Ranji campaign, behind Punit Bisht and Mohit Ahlawat in the keeping order.
After making headlines at the U-19 level donning the Indian colours in the 2016 under-19 World Cup, Pant would be given a longer rope for Delhi at first-class level in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy.
From there on, Pant ensured the hype was real that was created by the Indian media. In his third first-class game, Pant scored his maiden ton (146) against Assam.
But this boy wasn’t a one-hit-wonder.
The following game, Pant would score a whopping 308 off 326 balls against Maharashtra on a wearing Wankhede Stadium wicket in reply to their total of 2/635 declared.
Despite Delhi not making the knockout stages of India’s prestigious first-class tournament, Pant was the fourth-highest run-scorer of the 2016-17 Ranji season, with 972 runs at an average of 81 in 12 innings.
Pant’s outstanding form would reward him a call up in the India A red ball setup as the Indians hosted New Zealand A for two first-class games in 2017. Playing in the first unofficial Test, Pant scored 67 off 41 before Parthiv Patel replaced him in the second game.
Pant’s 2017-18 Ranji season was quiet, scoring 315 runs at an average of 35, but he led Delhi in Ishant Sharma’s absence as the side finished runners up to Umesh Yadav’s Vidarbha.
In July 2018, Pant would be a late addition to India A’s first-class games against West Indies A and England Lions. With three 50s in four innings for India A in the four-dayers, Pant would be added to India’s Test squad against England as Dinesh Karthik’s understudy.
With India 2-0 down in the series and Karthik looking well out of sorts with the bat, Pant debuted in the third Test at Nottingham, becoming the 291st Indian to play Test cricket. Smashing Adil Rashid down the ground for six in his second ball, Pant scored a fruitful 24 before Stuart Broad gave him a send-off.
In his third Test, Pant became the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test century in England, as his 114 alongside KL Rahul’s 149 gave India a glimmer of hope of chasing a mammoth 464.
Pant’s fearless style of batting saw him have the chance to score three Test hundreds within five Tests, but a lack of patience saw the youngster be dismissed twice on 92 against the West Indies.
In India’s tour of Australia in late 2018, Pant took 20 catches behind the stumps, before scoring an unsurprisingly attacking 159 at the SCG.
But from thereon, Pant’s career went on a slow downfall. Inconsistencies at ODI and T20I level crept into his Test match batting, before Wriddhiman Saha came back from injury and replaced Pant in India’s home Test series versus South Africa and Bangladesh.
Recalled into the XI against New Zealand in February 2020, he only mustered only 60 runs in four innings.
Dropped from India’s white-ball squads for the tour of Australia in late 2020-early 2021, Pant was solely in India’s Test squad for the first time since his debut series against England.
His love affair with Sydney continued, scoring 103 for India A against Australia A at the SCG, but Wriddhiman Saha’s glovework would see Pant dropped from India’s Test team once again for the first Test in Adelaide.
Recalled for the second Test, Pant wouldn’t look back. Not being a part of the 36 all-out debacle, he brought some much-needed energy behind the stumps, especially with his “Come on, Ash” slogans every time Ravi Ashwin bowled.
With the bat, Pant allowed himself to get set first before taking on the Aussie bowlers. Even though he scored a mere 29 runs at Melbourne, this template would see Pant play two of his best innings in Test cricket.
With India chasing a whopping 407, Pant was promoted to number five with India at 3-102 early on day five. Reigning his attacking instincts for 36 balls, Pant would go from 7 (36) to a half-century within 64 balls.
His live by the sword and die by the sword attitude saw India needed 157 runs in approximately 51 overs, but Pant would fall for 97. While he couldn’t win India the improbable at Sydney, his 89 not out ensured India breached the Gabba fortress.
Pant’s heroics on Australian soil would mean Wriddhiman Saha would have to be content with running the drinks in India’s home Test series against England.
Keeping on challenging surfaces at Chennai and Ahmedabad, Pant’s wicketkeeping was top notch and when the situation arose for him to deliver under pressure with the bat, he did once again – scoring 101 at Ahmedabad in the fourth Test and helping India win by an innings.
20 Tests into his career, Rishabh Pant has experienced the highs and lows of Test cricket.
Yet in such a short amount of time, he’s won India a few games with bat and gloves almost single-handedly.
When MS Dhoni retired from Test cricket, Wriddhiman Saha was often batting at number eight below Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin, as his batting wasn’t at all-rounder level. In the modern days of Test cricket, you couldn’t afford to have a keeper who looked out of sorts with the bat outside home conditions.
The Indian selectors took a massive gamble when Pant was chosen over KS Bharat as Dinesh Karthik’s understudy in 2018, considering Bharat is India’s best gloveman after Saha. But Rishabh Pant is a special player.
No Indian wicketkeeper has dominated the Ranji Trophy with the bat in the same manner as Pant has over the past decade. And now, the Indian selectors are reaping the rewards for sticking with Pant and never dropping him from the Test squad.
Born in Uttarakhand, the state didn’t have sufficient cricketing facilities, let alone a Ranji team for Rishabh Pant to make a name for himself. Shifting to cities such as Delhi and Rajasthan, Pant finally settled in Delhi in his teens and soon after, found himself in the Delhi state team.
So far, the Delhi cricket team has produced one of India’s finest Test openers in Virender Sehwag and arguably, the greatest all-format player of all time in Virat Kohli.
If Pant’s keeping continues to improve, it won’t be long before the Delhi cricket team can officially say they produced India’s greatest Test keeper-batsman of all time.