Is Rishabh Pant on the way to becoming India’s Adam Gilchrist, or even more?

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Rishabh Pant in action against Sri Lanka in Bengaluru

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Is Rishabh Pant on the way to becoming India’s Adam Gilchrist, or even more?

At this point, after 51 innings, Pant aged 24, has 1,920 Test runs at a staggering strike rate of 70.46, averaging 40.85. Among wicketkeepers all across the world, in the bracket of 40 plus average and a 70 plus strike rate, he has only one competitor above him none other than Adam Gilchrist.

Similar to the superheroes of Marvel’s Avengers force, every cricketer in the present Indian squad has his own style to deliver the goods. Some, while bowling, try to read the batters’ minds to deconstruct their techniques with their unique meticulous plannings, and the other, while batting, come up with a purity and simplicity, or with audacity at times, to disorientate the opponents.

Players, as well as the fans, mostly believe that Test cricket is more about endurance, unlike the ODIs and T20Is. But Rishabh Pant, irrespective of the situation of any game across all three formats, has constructed a solitary template, which has never been done by an Indian middle-order batter in history. Safe to say, he is quite similar to the Avengers’ fictional superhero Hulk, who only believes in one word motto – smash.

Pant, still seven months away from turning 25,  had made an impact with such effectiveness in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka, aggregating 185 runs in three innings at a strike rate of over 120 on not-so-batting friendly pitches at Mohali and Bengaluru.

In the Day-Night Test in Bengaluru, Pant, after scoring a half-century in just 28 balls, broke India’s 1983 World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev’s 40-year-old record of the fastest fifty among Indians in red-ball cricket. In the Mohali Test, he empowered to make full use of his gifts as well, smashing 96 off 97 balls before Ravindra Jadeja took all the limelights.

As a fitting reward, Pant was declared as the Player of the Series against Sri Lanka. It was an elusive award for many reasons, primarily because it was his first in international cricket, and then, in the process, he became the first wicket-keeper from the country to receive the award.

Yes, not even one of India’s all-time greats MS Dhoni managed to get one in Tests during his playing days.

At this point, after 51 innings, Pant has 1,920 Test runs at a staggering strike rate of 70.46, averaging 40.85. Among Wicketkeepers, in the bracket of 40+ average and a 70+ strike rate, he has only one competitor, and he is none other than Adam Gilchrist.

Gilchrist has inspired a legion of followers, including Pant, to try to imitate his ostentatious style of batting across formats. His strike rate in Test cricket, after 96 matches before he decided to button up his shirt and leave, read an astonishing 81.96. Pant, still a long way to go, must carry on his brutality of strokes to reach Gilchrist’s lofty standards.

It is not the fact that Pant is the first Indian to approach the aggressive batting nature in Test cricket. There was Virender Sehwag, who had scored more than 8,500 runs at 82.23.

But attacking the bowlers as an opener, and attacking the bowlers as a middle-order batter are two different things. Both are beneficial for the respective side, but the second option can take any momentum of opposition teams out of nowhere.

In the Sri Lanka series, Pant was elevated to No. 5 in the batting order, in the absence of Ajinkya Rahane, and batted ahead of Shreyas Iyer. Whether Pant’s promotion is going to be India’s long-term planning, or just a short-term move to counter Sri Lanka's left-arm spinners, is questionable, but one thing will surely remain and that is Pant’s brute strength while growing in the team.

Pant has a knack of manipulating the opposition, and then hitting the ball into the gaps in the field. But in the Sri Lanka series, along with his batting, he was also impressive with the big gloves behind the stumps, as well as chats with captain Rohit Sharma on whether to take DRS or not.

It would still be an early call whether Pant can reach, or even topple Gilchrist’s stature or not. But at 24, for a man who has already hit hundreds in Australia, England, and South Africa, it is not a dream anymore. However, for that, consistency will be the key.

Pant’s dazzling skills are here to stay, and he is going nowhere soon.

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