One of the most defining images from India’s Gabba breach was a photograph of Rishabh Pant putting his hands on his chest, eyes closed, face tilted upwards. It was a moment that told everything that you need to know about Pant the cricketer.
He was full of curves and delightful drives, punctuated by those audacious laps and sweeps. Rishabh Pant was living a dream for himself and one for a billion cricket fans who were traumatised by the fear of Gabba over the years. Nothing would beat this. EVER.
Wind the clock back to Sydney. Pant once again in his elements. On the other side is the clam of Pujara whose defense in the face of defiance frustrated the Aussies for the second tour in running. Yet Pant took on the attack on the opposition from the most unlikeliest of situations and gave Australia the scare they dreaded the most. All three results were possible now but the embarrassment of being put to the task got to the Aussies. And you know the result.
Fast forward to his dismissal, Nathan Lyon, who was at the receiving end of Pant onslaught despite having a match-up advantage, bowled a flighted delivery and Pant danced down the track to biff it through the covers, only to hole out to Pat Cummins at backward point. Remember that was a shot when he was on 97. As he walked back, he kicked himself and Twitter was abuzz with how disappointed Pant was for missing out on a well-deserved century.
“Remember Pant dejectedly dragging his feet and kicking the boundary rope when he was dismissed in his 90s in Australia? To the people who thought that was disappointment on missing a hundred, look at Pant's reaction to getting out for 101,” Snehal Pradhan summed it up beautifully on Twitter after Pant was dismissed after scoring his first Test century at home, thus becoming the second-ever wicket-keeper batsman after Adam Gilchrist to score a century in India, Australia and England. It tells you what Pant’s batting stands for.
In Ahmedabad, there was no shortage of theatre. Pant’s batting was a calculated aggression and as Freddie Wilde noted, “Pant hit boundaries off the first ball of the 81st (Anderson drive), 82nd (Stokes whip), 83rd (Anderson ramp) & 84th (Root slog sweep) overs & got out trying to hit another off the first of the 85th. Method in the madness?”
“The plan was just to build a partnership when I joined Rohit, that was the only thing on my mind,” Pant told Star Sports at the end of Day 1. “I was thinking I would assess the pitch and then play my shots. If the bowlers are bowling well, respect it and take the singles, and that was on my mind. I like to play the situation and I just see the ball and react - that's the USP (unique selling point) of my game. The team plan was to get to 206, past the England total, and then get as many runs as possible after that. I like to make the team win and if the crowd is entertained by that, I'm happy.”
That is the beauty Pant endures. He is not afraid of taking chances against any kind of bowler, he is not afraid of the situations but rather lets the natural flair take in. He knows if he can give himself the full rein of expressing himself, he will be in the control of the game more than the bowlers. He can change the dynamics and destroy the figures of the best of the bowlers in the business. You know why? Because HE CAN!
James Anderson was breathing fire yesterday. Bowling tirelessly, Anderson was the epitome of a workhorse in Ahmedabad. On a wicket that had a decent amount of bounce and with the ball assisting seam bowling, the Burnley lad kept on pushing the limit. Before England pushed a three-way spin attack with Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Joe Root, Anderson’s figure read 17-11-19-2 with literally ZERO bad balls. Imagine reverse lapping him over the slip cordon on his very next spell to get to his 90s and then slog-sweeping against the turn to get to your third Test hundred. If that doesn’t tell why Rishabh Pant is special, then possibly you are not a sportsfan with a pulse.
In the coming years, we will see a lot of Rishabh Pant for sure. In red-ball, pink-ball and white-ball, everywhere, we will have a certain Delhi boy having fun out there. That mindset will hold India in a good stead for years to come and keep the opposition second guessing their plans every single time they are playing against India. Because the era of Rishabh Pant has just begun.