Rishabh Pant will be missing in action for the next few months due to the extent of his injuries in the horrific car crash last week, putting a dent in Team India’s prospects going forward. The 25-year-old has been an integral part of the Indian squad for the past few years and had been touted as the next big star of the Men in Blue. But the untimely accident means that his path back to the field is going to be an arduous one.
With the wicketkeeper slot now open, both the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the team management will be looking for potential replacements, especially with the all-important ODI World Cup 2023 in mind.
Rishabh Pant was heading to his hometown in Uttarakhand to surprise his family when the car crash took place. Pant was rested by the selectors for the upcoming ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka and was due to report at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for conditioning. The well-deserved rest comes after an extraordinary year for the wicketkeeper in which he finished as India’s top-scoring Test batsman.
Rishabh Pant’s horrific car crash came in the early hours of Friday when the highway was relatively empty. The exact causes of the accident were unknown, but the star player was fortunately brought in time to the hospital, preventing a major loss of life. The 25-year-old is now out of danger, but a torn ligament and burn injuries now mean that he will need at least six more months to recover completely.
That would mean Rishabh Pant will be missing the crucial Border-Gavaskar Trophy along with a potential World Test Championship final. His absence will be particularly noticeable in the longest format of the game where he established himself as India’s premier wicketkeeper-batsman.
India’s selectors immediately sprung into action, with a replacement for Rishabh Pant the need of the hour for the Men in Blue. India will play the first Test against Australia in the second week of February, and a possible replacement candidate has to be found and trained for the role by then.
Currently, Team India have three options to pick from for their Test squad. After dropping Wriddhiman Saha from the squad last year, Srikar Bharat has been Rishabh Pant’s backup in the squad and has toured with the Indian team in the past. Srikar Bharat is a seasoned veteran in the domestic circuit – with solid glovework and batting abilities. The Andhra keeper has scored over 4500 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 37.46, including nine centuries and 25 half-centuries.
Ishan Kishan has made his spot secure in India’s T20 squad for a while now, but he could see a potential Test debut in February if the selectors decide to look for batting prowess. But the star hasn’t kept wickets in limited-overs cricket either for Team India or in first-class cricket for his team Jharkhand, which would weaken his credentials for the role. Ishan Kishan might act as the on-field backup wicket-keeper if the need arises.
Sanju Samson is also an option that selectors would like to look at. While Samson hasn’t kept the gloves for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy, he has the experience of keeping the wickets for India at the international level in the past. But the true competition for Srikar Bharat is likely to come from Upendra Yadav, the wicketkeeper for India A team. Upendra Yadav’s fortunes have been on the rise, with the 26-year-old bagging his maiden Indian T20 League contract in the mini-auction.
While Team India have the task of finding a wicket-keeper batsman, Team Delhi also have the difficult job of finding a new captain for the team. Rishabh Pant has led the team for the past two seasons and has done so successfully. With their star player set to miss out on the Indian T20 League, Team Delhi has to find a captain that can lead the team in his absence.
David Warner and Manish Pandey are the current favourites to lead the franchise for the upcoming season. Manish Pandey is a veteran of the Indian T20 League, being a part of all seasons of the Indian T20 League since its inception. He also has captained various domestic teams in his long career. This experience will make him an ideal candidate for the role.
David Warner, on the other hand, has the experience of leading a team to the Indian T20 League trophy. With all the off-field drama going around his captaincy ban in Australia, David Warner would be eager to lead a side in the Indian T20 League once more. The franchise could also look at Prithvi Shaw if they decide to go with a youngster for the captaincy role.
What Lies Ahead
Rishabh Pant is likely to miss action throughout the first half of the calendar year and might make a comeback into the Indian team in September for the series against Australia. India need to groom a wicketkeeper-batsman in time for the ODI World Cup in October, and Rishabh Pant’s inclusion will depend on the extent of his recovery.
VISIT OUR BLG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES