Rishabh Pant’s international career has been quite an antithesis so far. He entered the international arena as a buccaneering striker of the cricket ball, who was expected to dominate bowlers in the white ball format, exploiting the field restrictions and other bonuses handed to batters in the limited-overs format. Instead, while after 31 Tests, he averages a healthy 43.32 with five hundreds (four of them overseas), he has a poor average of 22.58 and an unexpectedly low strike rate of 124.27 in the T20 format. Ahead of the final ODI of the three-match series against England at Old Trafford in Manchester, he had been below par in one-dayers as well.
In a sense, the Manchester ton can prove to be a watershed moment in Pant’s white ball career if he builds on the success. The swashbuckling southpaw’s knock was exactly what India sought from him in the build-up to two World Cups – the 2022 T20 World Cup and the 2023 50-over World Cup. The unbeaten 125 not out off 113 balls should give the 24-year-old batter immense self-confidence and belief, something which had been lacking in his white-ball batting till that point of time.
Maturity at Manchester
Pant’s unbeaten hundred at Manchester was significant for more than one reason. Yes, his ton took India over the line in what seemed like a tense chase at one point of time. His partnership with the in-form all-rounder Hardik Pandya was also a brilliant one. It was exactly what the doctor ordered for India after the Top 3 fell prey to the guile of Reece Topley and Suryakumar Yadav also registered a failure. The duo complimented each other brilliantly as they put the pressure back on England’s bowlers.
What stood out about Pant’s batting in the final one-dayer was how he paced his innings. When he came into bat, India were in all sorts of strife, having lost both the openers without too many runs on the board. He soon also saw Virat Kohli perishing for another low score. Despite the grave team situation, Pant was expected to take on the bowling attack. He was supposed to play his natural game, which was to go after the England bowling and try and see if he can put the opposition under some pressure.
He did not do that. Instead, he was happy to play second fiddle to Pandya and hold one end up. The right-hander had been in sublime form and was finding the boundaries without too much trouble. Under normal circumstances, Pant would have gone after the bowling. Remember, he has been given the license by the team management to play how he wants to because he has already won a few games for India with his no-holds-barred approach. Pant has stated that he has an uncomplicated ‘see the ball, hit ball’ philosophy towards batting.
Has Pant the white ball batter arrived?
The fact that Pant reined himself in and batted till the end, carrying the team home after Pandya was dismissed at a critical juncture, was the biggest takeaway from his innings at Old Trafford. By demonstrating various layers to his innings, he proved that he could be a genuine match-winner in the limited overs formats as well. He had displayed the same in Tests in a rather unexpected fashion. And now, he has done the same in white-ball cricket as well.
The Indian team will now want Pant to build on the knock in Manchester and convert the foundation into a massive highrise. It has taken 27 matches for Pant to discover the best way for him to play in one-dayers at the top level. However, now that he has found that range, bowlers across the globe need to be wary of his presence in white ball cricket too.