"I think Rishabh Pant is a very confused, unsettled young man."
Those were Harsha Bhogle's words in a video on Cricbuzz just a day back, where he discussed the confusing Indian wicket-keeping situation in the upcoming away series against New Zealand. With Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Sanju Samson battling it out for the wicket-keeper's slot, there is very less clarity over who will finally don the keeper's gloves over the course of the five T20Is.
While this uncertainty may be interpreted as an opportunity for the players to stake their claim for the coveted spot, it sadly does little to convince an under-fire Rishabh Pant about his future with Indian team. The 22-year-old has experienced more ups and downs in his short career so far, than many cricketers have over long-term careers.
While some ridiculed him following a flurry of mistakes behind the stumps after being hailed as MS Dhoni's successor in the national team, others trolled him for his poor instincts with regard to DRS reviews. A string of poor scores further resulted in enhanced criticism for the youngster who was considered only good enough for the domestic level, on the back of poor application under pressure.
Skipper Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri publicly backed Pant at every stage despite all his struggle, hailing him as a game-changer who needs all the support he can get from the management. However, the selectors' thought process has certainly transformed in recent times if we go by their decision making, considering the decision to hand KL Rahul the keeper's gloves during the recently concluded ODI series against Australia.
Kohli further hailed Rahul as the player with whom the Indian team would be persisting as wicketkeeper, following an excellent performance under pressure with the willow as well as the gloves during the crucial series. "Rahul really brings in a good balance if he can keep and bat that well in that position (No. 5). He has come into the slot and he has done well so we will have to persist with that a little bit and see where that takes us and not necessarily be confused about the other options we have," he said.
In such a scenario, it is certainly a muddled situation for someone like Pant who is under-fire from the fans as well as experts following an underwhelming start to his international career. In a situation where the 22-year-old would be expecting utmost support from the team management and a vote of confidence with regard to him being the preferred option for the keeper's slot, he has been thrown into a maze of uncertainty with the decision to select three quality keepers for the T20I series against New Zealand.
The cricketer was initially coined as the preferred red-ball keeper ahead of veteran Wriddhiman Saha, following excellent performances in away series against England and Australia. However, this soon changed in the coming days with Saha preferred over Pant behind the stumps in coming months. The emerging wicket-keeper was then reassured about being the successor to MS Dhoni and India's first-choice keeper in white-ball cricket, which certainly did not yield the expected results. Pant now faces a massive battle to regain his position battling it out against the likes of Sanju Samson and KL Rahul, who are quality candidates themselves.
One certainly fears for the young 22-year-old keeper and wishes the team management would have been more considerate with regard to his mental state, considering the cricketer's talent and the overall welfare of Indian cricket.