Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash
If Rishabh Pant had collected the ball cleanly down the leg side and removed the bails in time, Ashton Turner would have been dismissed and, in all likelihood, India would have won the match and the series in the fourth ODI in Mohali.
India's catching on that night was below par and it's a fair assumption that the reprieves Turner received turned the game in Australia's favour. While this narrative isn't grossly misplaced, it becomes unfair when it starts a new thread: if MS Dhoni had been behind the stumps, Turner would have been out.
Now, it is natural to miss the presence of India's finest gloveman against spinners, but to see Pant's performance from that prism is not fair for variety of reasons. Was Virat Kohli compared to Sachin Tendulkar when he started playing? Was Kohli's every performance weighed against what the Little Master did or didn't do? Since that wasn't the case, and rightly so, why are we quick to jump on a Dhoni narrative every time Pant plays?
I get it - Kohli wasn't playing to steal Tendulkar's spot, and some feel that Pant is vying for Dhoni's place since there can only be one wicketkeeper in the side. While that might be true for a long-term vision, does it hold any value for the World Cup?
To assume that Dhoni is not likely to feature in the World Cup is a gross misjudgment. It's only about who plays alongside him and not in place of him. Dhoni's name will be on the team sheet every time he's fit and available for selection during the World Cup. So why compare the two keepers - one at the start of his career and one towards the end of his illustrious one.
From a spectator's point of view, recent form plays an important role in forming opinions. Pant's keeping is work in progress, but then wasn't Dhoni also an average keeper when he started out? But that's a fact we neither remember nor are comfortable to be reminded about.
We must remember that Pant or any other keeper will mostly feature in the playing XI as a batsman and not as a keeper, so let's go a little easy in jumping the gun. India should be thinking about picking the back-up keeper who can bat in the middle order and hopefully is able to provide a different variation to the playing XI. That's where Pant becomes a viable option - he is a left-hander and he's the only possible left-hander in the batting order after Shikhar Dhawan and before Ravindra Jadeja, i.e. if the latter gets picked.
Most teams across the globe have a wristspinner in their line-up and it won't be a bad idea to have the option of throwing a left-hand batsman in the mix to disrupt the proceedings. The bigger criticism of Pant should be his lack of consistency with the bat, for he's guilty of throwing away his wicket too often. As much as it's legitimate to criticse his shot selection and its execution, it's equally the fault of those who were responsible for making him World Cup-ready in time.
Pant is 21 and has played only as a replacement player in white-ball cricket. Even then, he hasn't played more than three games in a row ever. He's young and a little immature, but with an abundance of talent and hitting ability. Is it not plausible that when you know that you'll get only a couple of opportunities, you throw everything you have at it?
He's got the skills to change the game in a few overs, but at present he lacks the understanding to do so at the highest level. Compare this to his Test career thus far and you'll see growth there. He played in the Test team as a possible permanent option and not as someone keeping the seat warm for a name as big as Dhoni. It's not that he didn't commit mistakes in whites but he did learn and improve.
The common criticism of Pant is that he doesn't understand the grammar of building innings in shorter formats and his recent performances vindicate that point. But if that's indeed the case, how does he succeed in the IPL? Is it just because of the slightly inferior bowling attacks that he faces, or does it have something to do with the assurance of playing all 14 games? He's the only Indian wicketkeeper to score Test tons in England and Australia (and those are his only overseas tours thus far) and that suggests that he might have what it takes to keep the top-quality bowlers at bay, maybe even in the shorter formats.
In the ideal world, Pant should have played at least 50 limited-overs games for India before he was considered as an option for the World Cup and, more importantly, should have played a couple of series without the sword hanging over his neck. That hasn't happened, but let's also not hide from the fact that while Dhoni is around, it was likely that Pant's opportunities were always going to be sporadic and he should have known better than blowing away his chances.
Since age is on his side and he's already done something that his more illustrious predecessors couldn't, albeit in Test cricket, I'm willing to give him the benefit of doubt. Whether India pick him for the World Cup or not is a discussion worth having for long, but dissing him for not living up to the lofty standards set by Dhoni must stop.