Rishabh Pant, the stand-in India captain for the T20 Internationals against South Africa, came under the scanner after India lost the first two matches. In what were convincing wins for the Proteas, experts and fans alike have found shared blame on Pant’s captaincy in the series.

This follows from a rather underwhelming performance under his captaincy by Delhi Capitals in this year’s Indian T20 League. The question that begs to be asked is whether the criticism is warranted or not.

The Indian team’s performance is always a significant source of joy for fans across the nation, and losses seem to bring the heat to the squad and coaching staff alike. Individual brilliance has been displayed by a few Indian players, but they have yet to fire in harmony and as a team. Pant’s team seems to have off days in both batting and bowling departments, and as a captain, he needs them to fire on all cylinders.

Retrospect is easy, and while the 24-year-old has made some key mistakes in both the bowling and batting orders, respectively, it is a part and parcel of someone who’s learning his craft.

Captaining India is a huge responsibility and to be in the footsteps of greats like MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma is no easy task. Rather than dismissing Pant, the strata of ex-pros should focus on mentoring him and helping him improve.

“Somewhere down the line I think, the more he leads, the better he will become,” former India batter Wasim Jaffer told ESPNCricinfo. “But currently, at this stage, I think that when the match becomes tight, he panics a little bit.”

A different type of captain

While that is a natural response, the mark of Pant as a captain will be how he learns from his mistakes and corrects the course.

Aakash Chopra, meanwhile, points at a different style of captaincy that Pant showcases. “Rishabh Pant does try to think out of the box at times,” Chopra told Cricket Addictor. “We’ve seen that he’s not given Kuldeep Yadav his four overs in the Indian T20 League, even when he had taken four wickets from his first three. This has not just happened once but on several occasions. He is a different type of a captain.”

What Pant needs is time to learn from his mistakes and hone his craft; while showcasing his captaincy with a larger sample size than two international matches. It is too early to pass a verdict on him.

Sport works in short-timed retrospect, and further improvements in this five-match series could see the narrative change for the better for the young India wicketkeeper.