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We've got Rishabh Pant

India's Rishabh Pant
India's Rishabh Pant

"We’ve got Pant. Rishabh Pant. I just don’t think you’ll understand. He’ll hit you for a six. He’ll babysit your kids. We’ve got Rishab Pant."

When the Bharat Army composed this song on India's last tour of Australia, they would have hardly expected Pant to end up as the top run-scorer for India the next time they arrived on the Australian shores for a test series.

From an extra to the hero

It is ridiculous to think that Pant was not even part of the first test match despite impressing with a quick-fire century in the side game against Australia A but went on to reclaim his spot and how, in the course of just a month.

A loopy delivery from Nathan Lyon hits a crack on a day 5 Gabba pitch and spins square straight to Steve Smith at first slip. On the next ball, Rishabh Pant dances down the track to reach the pitch of the delivery and lifts it against the spin over long on for a six.

For those following test cricket over a long time, it was outrageous. But this is the way Pant plays, and this is what works for him.

In his match-winning unbeaten 89 in the second innings of the last test match at Brisbane, Rishabh Pant played some orthodox shots and some unorthodox ones. The orthodox shots included the cover drive, the pull and a few taps for singles while the unorthodox ones included a paddle scoop, an attempted reverse sweep and a one-handed six.

Leaving behind poor form

Rewind to IPL 2020 and Pant finished with one of his worst-ever IPL seasons. Make no mistake, it was not a typical bummer and Pant still scored 343 runs at over 30, but with the man associated with smacking the ball out of the park, his strike rate of 113 was unbecoming of his reputation, especially given that his career strike rate in IPL is over 150.

He was then dropped from both the ODI and the T20I sides against Australia preceding the test series and Wriddhiman Saha was preferred over him due to his superior wicket keeping skills at Adelaide.

But once Virat Kohli flew out of Australia to be along with his wife for the birth of their first child and India capitulated for just 36 in their second innings of the Adelaide test, India had no option but to strengthen their batting. For that, they brought in Ravindra Jadeja as a spin bowling all-rounder and Rishabh Pant as a wicket-keeper batsman. 


Against the run of play

Pant made just 29 in his only dig at Melbourne but that was enough to change the course of the match. India were chasing their tail when Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari steadied the ship. Once Vihari was dismissed, Pant joined hands with Ajinkya Rahane to change the flow of the match. Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja later cashed in to set up a brilliant test victory for India at Melbourne.

After scoring 36 in the first innings at Sydney, his counter-attacking 97 almost won India the Sydney test as well. However, he missed out on a well-deserved century, caught at point off Nathan Lyon in a bid to up the ante.

As soon as Pant departed, India's hopes of clinching a win also evaporated as Hanuma Vihari, who tore  his hamstring, and Ravichandran Ashwin began to play for a draw. It was commendable that the two kept out 258 deliveries to take India to a historic draw but one can only imagine what could have come out of it had Rishabh Pant stayed at the crease for a few more overs.

The Brisbane heist

While he may have just fell short at Sydney, he finished the job at Brisbane to take India to a once-in-a-lifetime victory. You might say, he had a slice of luck, but then, fortune favours the brave and you've got to make your own luck.

One thing is for sure, there are the talented players, players with sound temperament, and then there are game changers - players who can turn the course of a match on its head within a session, the bravehearts who do not think twice before taking a risk and always keep the fans on the edge of their seats. Pant, beyond doubt, is one such game changer India must treasure.


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