It was Indian Premier League, 2017. Rishabh Pant, the young sensation of Delhi Daredevils was eager to impress all with his strokeplay. But just two days before DD’s first match, he faced one of the biggest blows in his life as he lost his father. However, he completed the last rites and joined his team immediately to face Royal Challengers Bangalore. Not only did he play, he also scored a 33-ball half-century to give some hope to the Daredevils to chase a tricky target. The morning showed the day and a warrior was born.
Little did we know that the teenage sensation would make it to the headlines for saving India’s grace Down Under in 2021. The mental strength, the grit, the professionalism required to do the wonder at Sydney Cricket Ground in the fourth Test match against Australia, Pant had every bit of it since the beginning.
Indian team that took on Australia in Sydney had a bunch of wounded players. The visitors were already without few key members and the existing ones were suffering from various injury issues. On day five when Indians walked in with a daunting target, they had Cheteshwar Pujara and stop-gap captain Ajinkya Rahane to depend on. However, one of the Test specialists, Rahane was dismissed in the second over and change of plan resulted in Pant walking down the middle. The youngster was struggling with an injured elbow and on high painkillers.
Rishabh Pant took 36 balls to score his first seven runs. But once he got settled, he was in his usual flow. Pant who has been criticised for his keeping skills, has always given his fans enough reason to back him for his batting. It was not easy to face the Australian star-studded attack with an injured elbow. But Pant made run scoring look easy.
In the time Pant moved from five to 50, his batting partner, Pujara, could add five odd runs to the total. Thanks to Pant’s blazing innings, for a brief period Indians could actually hope for a win. A historic one. Pujara was obviously playing the anchor’s role and Pant kept accelerating the scoreboard; they complemented each other in the classic way.
Another dismissal at that moment could have taken away the match from the Indian camp. So, Pant had to keep a balance while playing his natural game. Fortunately, for Indians, Pant was dropped on three and 56. Those hiccups did not stop him from going for shots whenever he saw the opportunity. He has been criticized for shot selection frequently but his strokeplaying ability has impressed one and all.
The way Rishabh Pant displayed his effective style of batting without caring much about the circumstances, he reminded of legends like Virender Sehwag. Just like Sehwag, Pant did not change his momentum even in the 90s; he attempted a lofted shot and got caught at the point.
The courage was shown by Pant that day was much needed for India. The aim was only to finish the day without being all-out and save the match anyhow. A youngster arrived and changed the tone in a way that after his dismissal once again the focus was shifted to draw. Such was Pant’s impact on the last day of the SCG Test.
He showed his class multiple times earlier in his career. His numbers indicate that he is one of the most exciting young Indian batsmen. He is the first Indian wicket keeper to score centuries in England and Australia. He even maintains the best batting average among overseas players touring Australia in last 10 years. Above all, the maturity he portrayed in Sydney proved that Indian cricket team needs this lad in more overseas tours.
Now, the question is how. Voting for Pant as India’s first-choice wicket keeper will take some time. Still a lot of work is needed for him to improve his keeping. As of now, Wriddhiman Saha possess much better wicket keeping skill than Pant, especially at the home condition. But India cannot afford to miss Rishabh Pant, the batter.
The middle-order that crumbles often especially without Kohli, needs a strong attacking player like Pant in the line-up. At this point, the Indian team management must be happy to see so many talented players fighting for their spot. Once all of them are fit and available it will be a tricky decision for the management to decide the best role for Pant in the first eleven in home and away Test matches.
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