MS Dhoni’s legacy has hung like a shadow over Rishabh Pant’s career. He has been forever proving that he is the ideal player to take Dhoni’s mantle behind the stumps for India. At the same time, he has been an understudy too. Right from dealing with IPL contracts to thinking about the game-Dhoni has been his go-to man over the last three years.
As Dhoni nears the sunset as a professional player, Pant has evolved into a leadership role-a job that is synonymous to Dhoni.
Monday’s IPL tussle between table toppers Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings will be a tough test of Pant’s leadership smarts. Both of them have successfully led their franchises into the playoffs. It’s now about sealing the top-two slot.
A quick scan of Pant’s demeanour behind the stumps would suggest he is about aping Dhoni the leader. The constant coded suggestions to his bowlers and sense to pre-empt are something that Dhoni had trademarked for himself. Capitals’ trump card, pacer Anrich Nortje had offered an insight into Pant’s game sense earlier in the second leg of this year’s IPL. “It’s difficult to say just after one game. But all in all, he is good in understanding the game from what I have seen. He is a keeper as well and sees things differently,” Nortje had said last week.
“He has got a good eye of what’s going to happen in the game, and that’s really nice having that especially as a captain. The simple things like being good with angles and where fielders need to be placed, projecting what’s going to happen, really nice having him at the back,” the express South African pacer reckoned.
Former India wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta, currently commentating in UAE, highlighted how good Pant was while defending a modest total against Kolkata Knight Riders in Sharjah. “Only thing that he needs to be careful about is that there is a difference between sixth sense and wishful thinking. He just needs to keep his emotions in control and he will be fine,” Dasgupta told TOI on Sunday.
Thursday’s match will be as much a test of Pant’s captaincy as the in-form Ruturaj Gaikwad‘s ability to face an international quality attack like Capitals. With Ruturaj tasked to anchor the innings, rest assured Dhoni will have no set batting line-up for Pant to pre-empt. How he marshals his troops will show how much he has grown as an understudy of the master-strategist of Indian cricket.