By making himself unavailable for India for the last two ODIs against Australia, Mahendra Singh Dhoni paved the way for the young Rishabh Pant to showcase his skills.
Pant, the obvious choice for keeping wickets in Dhoni’s absence, was exposed in the crucial fourth ODI in Mohali on Sunday.
Pant missed two crucial stumping — of centurion Peter Handscomb (on 105) and Ashton Turner (on 38). It said a lot about how the Delhi youngster still has miles to go to improve his glove work. Dhoni’s flashy stumpings were missed.
Pant’s lapses proved costly for India as Turner played a match-winning knock that has kept the series evenly placed at 2-all and everything to play for in the final ODI in New Delhi on Wednesday.
While it is unfair to compare Pant to Dhoni’s class behind the stumps, the 21-year-old who was only playing his fourth ODI has not done the basics right.
Pant’s Delhi teammate Shikhar Dhawan defended his sloppy glove work saying: “Like any other young bloke, you have to give him time too”.
But, in the world of professional cricket, Pant has got umpteen chances to prepare for the highest level by playing for India U-19, Ranji Trophy, India ‘A’ and also the competitive Indian Premier League. Only last week clinched a Grade A contract worth Rs 5 crore per annum. If they have not prepared him for the highest level, then he is not the right choice to step into Dhoni’s shoes.
That said, Dhoni’s decision to not play will also lead to the needless talk that he is shunning national duty and is resting to be fresh for the upcoming Indian Premier League. Debates of choosing franchise ahead of the country will make rounds. Dhoni could have avoided this issue.
Dhoni, 37, knows his body best and when he needs rest. But, he plays only the limited-overs formats – the 50- and 20-overs – and not all the three, having retired from Tests more than four years ago.
Since the start of the calendar year, after a rest of more than 2 months – November 1, 2018 to January 12, 2019 – Dhoni has played in nine ODIs and five T20Is. That is a total of 14 matches for India in eight week. He usually plays a minimum of 14 matches, and upto 17, for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in the said period.
However, this year could be an exception as the Indian team think-tank would keep a watch on him and other World Cup-bound players so that they are not completely drained at the start of the quadrennial event in England.
For, India need a fit and fresh Dhoni behind the stumps, not the sloppy Pant.