Mahendra Singh Dhoni's finishing skills in limited-overs' cricket are legendary. The coming together of his 'cool head', calculated risk-taking initiatives, frenetic running between the wickets and breathtaking strokeplay made him one of the world's finest finishers.
Dhoni, of course, is in the evening of a great career and India desperately seek a batsman who could emulate his considerable skills at the death.
For close to ten years, the Indian team was spoilt not just by Dhoni, but also Yuvraj Singh, who at his peak was as destructive a striker of the ball. The duo came good often and when they were on song, India enjoyed considerable success in the short forms of the game.
However, now with Yuvraj out of favour and Dhoni picking and choosing his battles, the hunt for their successor is turning desperate. The utilisation of Rishabh Pant in that role in the Nidahas Trophy-opener against Sri Lanka on Tuesday was part of that search. This apprehensive search is to ensure that India has at least one world-class finisher in place for the 2019 World Cup in England.
Pant came into the team with the reputation of being a big hitter. Admittedly, big-hitting is only one component of a finisher's skill, but it still is a very huge pre-requisite. Had Pant scored at a strike-rate of around 160 to 180 the Indian team would not only have been thrilled, but probably successful as well in the tournament-opener.
That was not to be.
The Delhi batsman tried very hard to hit the cover off the ball but with the bowlers not offering the width or the length that he sought, he struggled through his innings and hit just one six and one four from 23 balls that he faced.
Pant walked in to bat after India had recovered from 9 for 2 and were sailing at 104 for three in 12.4 overs. There were ample overs for him to get his eye in and then go hell for leather. At the other end Shikhar Dhawan (90 off 49 balls) had done tremendously well to put together the excellent launch pad. Normally, with wickets in hand and being in the position that India were, the remaining batsmen ought to have been going at over 12 runs an over.
Instead, India's batsmen scratched around to add a mere 70 runs in 44 deliveries, with the worst output coming in the 19th over when a well set Pant and experienced Dinesh Karthik added just seven runs.
It was this lack of firepower and finishing skills that worries India's team management no end. They tried Hardik Pandya in the role in South Africa and earlier and he still remains a work in progress.
Pant, meanwhile, is relatively new to international cricket. But he had enough time in the middle to gauge the bowling and the pitch. He struggled to get off strike at the start of his innings and later failed to come up with the sort of big hits expected. And that's an issue without doubt.
Sri Lanka certainly had a drop on him. They bowled fuller and in line with his body. This did not allow him to free his hands till about the penultimate delivery of the innings when Chameera bowled a length delivery wide of the stumps and Pant slammed him to the cover fence.
Hopefully Pant will be wiser after the game and work on ways and means to up his strike-rate to at least 130. Of course if he gets to the batting crease later in the innings when there are just four or five overs to be gone through, that strike-rate ought to be higher.
This would call for situational analysis where the batsman would be aware of the resources at the opposition's disposal and his own plans on how to target each one of them. A finisher needs to be a disrupter who can cause panic in the opposition ranks and that is something Pant needs to focus on. Inexperience can no longer be an excuse, especially for someone hardened by long-term exposure to high-voltage IPL.
Is Pant the man for job? It is not just him; the Indian team management too needs to quickly find out. If Pant is their chosen one, then he has between now and the World Cup to showcase and hone his skills.
Tuesday could be termed as a bad day in the office for the youngster. But for him to progress, he needs to quickly imbibe the lessons that would make him a force to reckon with.
Currently the Indian team management believes that he is worth his place in the team on the strength of his batting skills alone. It is now up to him to prove that he fits into the shoes of Dhoni and Yuvraj.
But for that Pant must treat Tuesday's performance as an aberration and go on to make his presence felt in the rest of the matches.