Team India’s wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant may have failed to live up to his potential in the white-ball formats so far. But when it comes to Test cricket, he is a completely different kettle of fish. Pant has struggled for both fluency and consistency in limited-overs matches, which is rather surprising because his game is better suited to the shorter formats. However, just like Virender Sehwag, another batter in the same mode, Pant too seems more at home in the traditional format of the game, which is a rather fascinating case study in itself.
In the Birmingham Test, Pant gave another illustration of his growing prowess as a Test batter. He came into bat with India in all sorts of trouble at 98 for 5 in the first innings and smashed 146 in only 111 balls to turn the contest on its head. The knock came against an England attack comprising James Anderson and Stuart Broad, two of the top wicket-takers of all-time in Test cricket and Matthew Potts, who was high on confidence after an impressive debut against New Zealand. What is it about Pant then that makes him such a dangerous Test batter time and again?
A deadly mix of daredevilry and composure
If we take a superficial view of Pant’s batting, we might just conclude that he is a hit-or-miss player. Many critics, in fact, felt this at the start of the youngster’s career. However, sloggers don’t score the number of runs that Pant has smashed in a career which is now 31 Tests old. And hit-and-miss batters definitely won’t have four hundreds in overseas conditions. As for Pant, he has scored two in England, one in Australia and one in South Africa as well. Even the ton he scored at home in Ahmedabad against the Englishmen came on a tough batting surface.
A deeper analysis of Pant’s batting is needed to try and figure out the rationale behind his amazing success. The flamboyant batter’s biggest plus point is the fact that he plays fearless cricket. And although he gets out to rash strokes at times, he has delivered the goods on a majority of occasions so far. This is because he is always thinking about ways to outwit the bowler and is not just blinding stepping out every time.
The man gave a fascinating insight into his mindset while out in the middle with the willow. After his fabulous 146 in Birmingham, he said, “I keep trying that I do not play in the same manner so that the bowler gets mentally disturbed. I don’t focus on the bowler; I focus on what he is bowling. It is not pre-planned that I have to go after this bowler. If I feel I can hit the ball, I do that.” This statement, in a nutshell, explains why Pant has been so successful in his Test career so far. What might look like a premeditated stroke on the outside is actually a well-thought-out plan being executed by a sharp mind, which is always thinking of ways to be one up on the bowler.
Pant as good as Gilchrist?
In the wake of brilliance against Australia during the 2020-21 series, where he played two blinders in consecutive Tests, Pant began drawing comparisons with Aussie legend Adam Gilchrist. Gilly is undoubtedly one of the most destructive keeper-batters to have graced the game. In an international career that lasted over a decade, he posed a massive threat to bowlers all around the globe with his uncomplicated and aggressive batting mindset. He retired as one of the all-time greats of the game.
The one quality that Pant definitely has in common with Gilchrist is that he strikes fear among the opponents with his daring strokeplay. However, it is way too early to compare him with the Australian at the moment. Of course, if he carries on with the same consistency and intensity over the next few years, the answer would become pretty obvious!