When Rishabh Pant made his international debut in a T20I against England in 2017, he was viewed as an outrageous talent who could explode in limited-overs on the big stage, if given enough opportunities. Injuries and fitness issues to Wriddhiman Saha meant that Pant got his chances in the traditional format of the game too. The next couple of seasons were spent in discovering how good the southpaw can actually be in international cricket. The results were mixed and, consequently, the talented dasher was in and out of the team. The last few months though have seen Pant, still only 23, come of age spectacularly.
It all began in Australia with the blazing hundred in a practice game. Although, it was not enough to find Pant at place in the playing XI for the Adelaide Test, a disastrous batting show forced India to bring him in ahead of Saha for the Boxing Day encounter. Had the move failed, both the team think-tank and Pant himself would have come in for plenty of criticism. As things panned out, the maverick batsman played two stellar knocks – 97 in Sydney and 89 not out at Gabba. One almost led to a famous win, the other actually did!
The audacious Pant has carried on his great form into the home series against England. He was India’s best batsman in the loss in the first Test with 91, scored a crucial fifty in the second Test and notched up a century in the first inning of the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad, which rescued India from a precarious situation. For someone often criticised for getting out to loose strokes, Pant has displayed amazing consistency over the past few months. In fact, he has demonstrated that he could actually be the match-winner pundits predicted him to be, not only in the shorter formats but even more so in the longer version. While the sample size is too little to eulogise the left-hander, the base for a possible great career has definitely been laid.
Bold and brilliant
While Pant has always been viewed as someone who will take on the bowling attack, there has been a significant change in his batting style that has seen him achieve greater success in recent times. His hundred in fourth Test against England in Ahmedabad is the perfect example of the ‘new Rishabh Pant’ – aggressive, cautious and innovative all rolled into one. When Pant came into bat, India were in big trouble, trailing England significantly on the first innings lead. Pant, commendably, curbed his natural game, and was ready to fight his way through. This is the something Pant of 2019 would undoubtedly have not done. So, there is definite improvement in his mental aspect of the game.
Praising Pant, the legendary Adam Gilchrist wrote that “when you score is as important as how many you score.” This is another area where the left-hander is ticking the boxes. Most of his knocks of late have come with the team under the pump – be it Sydney, Brisbane or Ahmedabad. Not only is Pant getting consistent, but his versatility as a batsman is also on the rise. He has used his judiciousness rather smartly with regards to the kind of knocks he has played under different circumstances. His audacious assault in Sydney caught the Aussies off-guard and was a precursor to the Gabba epic. At Ahmedabad, he defended when needed but switched gears, seeing the opponents were on the back foot.
The kind of high-risk game Pant adopts, there are chances he will get out cheaply as many times as he will score big. The fact that he has still notched up four fifties and a hundred in his last six Tests speaks volumes of Pant’s belief in his own ability and the exceptional talent he possesses. There has never really been any doubt over the unorthodox cricketer’s ability with the bat. Thus, to see him transform his potential to performance is fulfilling. Hopefully, he can make Sourav Ganguly’s prophecy of becoming an all-time great across formats come true.