Rishabh Pant High on Self-Confidence, Time to Just Let Him Grow
Rishabh Pant finished as the third highest-scorer of the India vs England Test series with 270 runs from 6 innings.
If you are just starting out on a job, you are usually placed on probation. It’s something that happens at the start of your professional career, maybe when you’re right out of college.
For Rishabh Pant, he has had to be on the probation period twice in his short international career.
Finally though, he appears to have been given a permanent role at his job by the powers that be. More than the first probation period, it is the second one, which has catapulted him into a zone of his own in Indian cricket.
This probation period was needed for him to reset his career, which appeared to have hit a dead end after the initial euphoria around his batting, on his first two Test tours to England and Australia. His career then sort of tapered off with a poor IPL in 2020 adding to his woes, but to emerge from there on his own terms, says a lot about the character of the guy who is just about becoming a man in the big bad world of international cricket.
Who would have thought in November 2020 when the squads for the Australia tour were announced that Pant, who was dropped from the white ball squads for Australia, would emerge as the MVP in Indian cricket by March 2021.
It says a lot about the character of the man who fought the odds to come up trumps. In fact, a lot of credit for this revival should also go to the team’s think-tank who put him on notice.
In fact, they needed a breath of fresh air after being all out for 36. The fact that the team started with Wriddhiman Saha at the start of the Australian Test tour showed that they had decided to go beyond Pant. But it was the fiasco at Adelaide that forced a re-think.
It was then up to Pant to grab the chance or let it slip by. There were other claimants waiting to grab the opportunity. His place in the white-ball squads, his natural format to be in had already gone to a stand-in keeper in KL Rahul. He couldn’t afford to let go of the chance and be on the sidelines even in Tests.
But he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He started off slowly in Melbourne, then in Sydney, despite battling injury, came up trumps in fine style and almost chased down an improbable total. Then at Brisbane, Pant’s breathtaking approach provided an icing on the cake as India won a remarkable Test series that is still being spoken about.
But the challenge was to follow up on his blitzkrieg in Australia with similar performances at home.
In India, his other skill, keeping, was also going to be tested on tracks that offered a lot of turn. Ravichandran Ashwin, the master, was going to test his skill and so was the accurate Axar Patel.
Thankfully, at the end of it all, Pant came out unscathed. His reputation as a keeper has only enhanced because he has been swift and almost Dhoniesque while dealing with the spinners. He has been able to move quickly to collect the ball and take catches, effect stumpings at breakneck speed, which has enabled the spinners to emerge on top. Even with the seamers he has revelled in standing back both in Australia and for a brief while at home as well.
His match-turning innings in the final Test coupled with his other efforts at home against England showed that he is a man who can adapt with the changing surfaces. In fact, it is a compliment to the ability of Pant that Joe Root, the England captain delayed declaration in the first Test at Chennai. It is there where the momentum for the Test series tilted in India’s favour even though the home team lost the first Test.
It showed that Pant the batsman evoked fear and respect in the rival camp, which shows that he had grown in stature. That is a good sign for a guy who was on probation just two months before, but had managed to leapfrog in the pecking order.
The final Test innings was the perfect finish to a seven-Test probation because he well and truly turned the match on its head with his batting. Rishabh Pant formed a terrific partnership with Washington Sundar and together, the young pairing tormented England, who gave up mentally by the time Pant got out.
In fact, some of the shots that Pant played showed just how much he had confidence in his ability like when he reverse swept, or should we say reverse scooped, over the slip cordon off the bowling of one of the greatest – James Anderson!
That, in a nutshell, summed up his renewed self-belief and self-confidence.
With such a huge jump in belief and performances, it was only natural that Pant would be rewarded once again with a place in the white-ball squad. He is in the form of his life and now has the license to go for the kill in the format that he loves the most. He is now the designated keeper with Rahul being earmarked once again as a batsman. Get ready for some more breathtaking efforts from the guy who has been unshackled by the pressures of the past, because he is after all now a full-timer!
His keeping has also won praises from the masters of the past like Kiran More and his batting has won approvals from his ideological predecessor Adam Gilchrist.
With such adoring approvals from past masters, Pant is slowly but surely moving into an exalted group in Indian cricket. Former India captain and current BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has already called him a future all-time great. Now that is huge praise!
In addition to his skills with the bat and gloves, he also has a ready career as a commentator in front of him. He has fun with his running commentary, his loud laughter and constant chatter. He gets on the nerves of batsmen at times and that results in wickets too.
All this stems from the confidence of having scored plenty of runs with the bat. That gets transferred to other skills on the field.
Hopefully, his career as a commentator is still a long way off, because he has plenty to achieve on the field before he gets there.
PS Stop calling him a replacement for Dhoni, because as a Test cricketer the former India captain finished in December 2014. India moved on from him seven years ago in Tests. So, Pant is his own man, just let him be!
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