Is Rishabh Pant the next MS Dhoni?

Can Rishabh Pant rightfully match the legacy of former Team India skipper MS Dhoni? That’s a question that the Indian cricketing fraternity still hasn’t found a definitive answer to as such. After all, those are some massive shoes to be filled.

In the recent Test series against Australia, followed by the home Test series against England, Rishabh Pant showcased just how big an impact he can make, even in the purest format of the game.

His rapid rise saw the first-choice Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha being pushed to the sidelines. He has also successfully retained the gloves in the white ball series against England, despite missing the limited-overs series against Australia last year.

His ability to change the game within a span of a few overs was never in doubt, even though he lacked composure and threw away his wicket cheaply. However, considering his recent exploits, Pant has surely matured in terms of his approach as a batsman.

Apart from that, he has also been giving more emphasis to his fitness, which, in turn, reflects on his improved glovework. Ever since he made his international debut, the BCCI has backed Pant to the hilt, despite too many external opinions.

The 23-year-old was dropped when he didn’t perform or when they felt he needed to mature more, but the support was there. In fact, the youngster himself acknowledged that he needs to put in some extra yards in order to regain the trust.

Pant had made a vital contribution during India’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy triumph in 2018-19. He scored 350 runs in 4 matches at an average of 58.33. Most notably, his knock of 159 off 189 balls in Sydney stole the show.

Pant continued his love affair against the Aussies when India toured Down Under recently. However, he was more disciplined, yet cautious, this time. He was brought into the side in place of Wriddhiman Saha after India recorded its lowest-ever Test total – 36 – in Adelaide.

The youngster missed out on a century in the third Test in Sydney, scoring 97 off 118 balls, the highest by an Indian batsman in the match. He then notched up an unbeaten 89 off 139 balls in the fourth Test in Brisbane as India chased down 328 to seal a memorable series.

After the second successive triumph on Australian soil, Pant had another challenge in the form of England, who toured India earlier in 2021 to play 4 Tests, 5 T20Is, and 3 ODIs. He ended the Test series with 270 runs from 4 matches at an average of 54.

He also had a brilliant outing during the white-ball leg of the tour. So far, baby steps have been taken to try and gradually step into MS Dhoni’s shoes. Stats suggest that MS Dhoni had a similar start to his career as Pant.

While some have suggested that Pant should not be compared to Dhoni, some feel that he is more talented than his predecessor. Although he might surpass Dhoni’s legacy in Test cricket, emulating the same across formats is a bridge too far for him.