SYDNEY - Rishabh Pant may not be the finished article as a wicketkeeper but India are ready to be patient with the exciting talent whose spectacular counter-attacking knock helped them pull off a great escape in the third test against Australia.
Chasing an improbable 407-run victory target, India were effectively 102-4 early on the final day with Ravindra Jadeja nursing a dislocated thumb which has ended the all-rounder's Australia tour.
Promoted to number five, Pant smashed a blistering 97 to turn the contest on its head and his 148-run stand with Cheteshwar Pujara (77) laid the foundation for a memorable draw.
Pant's keeping was criticised after he dropped Australia opener Will Pucovski twice on the opening day but his batting heroics underlined why India keep playing him ahead of the technically superior Wriddhiman Saha.
"Anyone can drop catches but as long as you are learning, as a wicketkeeper or as a cricketer, that's very important," India captain Ajinkya Rahane said after Monday's draw.
"We know he can actually win game for us from any situation, we have that belief in him. I think he's improving day by day and it's a very good sign."
Pant had suffered an elbow injury on Saturday and had to be substituted by Saha behind the stumps during Australia's second innings.
India have a top-four comprising only right-handed batsmen and having an attacking southpaw like Pant forces opposition bowlers to keep changing their line.
"We know that he is a positive player and the left-right combination was very crucial for us," Rahane said.
"We promoted him at number five and the way he played a counter-attacking knock was really good."
Days after being trolled on social media for his slip-up behind the stumps, Pant received support from former players.
"Pant showed why he needs to b(e) treated differently," tweeted former India opener Virender Sehwag.
The series is tied at 1-1 and the final test will be held at the Gabba from Jan. 15-19, after which India return home for a four-test series against England that begins on Feb. 5.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Amlan_Reuters))