Rishabh Pant - The ninja in the pack for Team India
India vs England: Rishabh Pant has always had an undeniable fire in his belly. The same fire that helped him burn down Australia's edifice of invincibility at 'The Gabba'.
Australia was the just the beginning, and Rishabh Pant has just got started. This was the sentiment among many cricket pundits in India who have known the immense potential of the youngster. His fledgling international career has been nothing short of a baptism by fire for Pant, who has been under scrutiny from day one. The fans, and even the media, have not been fair to him at times but when you are filling in the shoes of a 'once in a lifetime' player like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, this is but natural.
He is by no means a polished product either in batting or behind the stumps, but so wasn't Dhoni and there are very few cricketers who take to international cricket like ducks to water from the beginning. Hence, the mistakes and the exclusions from the national team. However poor his modes of dismissals might have been or the dropped catches, Pant has always had an undeniable fire in his belly. The same fire that helped him burn down Australia's edifice of invincibility at 'The Gabba'.
Pant dares and that allows him to deliver. Something that was synonymous with the personality and batting style of the great Virender Sehwag. Sehwag didn't care about reputations, copybook styles and revered traditions and that helped him create a new style of Test batting, which gave Team India the platform it needed to start winning matches outside the sub-continent.
Pant is also discovering his own style of batting and the confidence he has earned form his performances down under and from the backing of the team management is now on show against England. He made the best use of that confidence to slam his third Test century on day 2 of the fourth Test against Joe Root's team in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Coming in to bat with India in trouble, as has been the case for a string of matches now, Pant took measure of England's attack quickly. He did well to settle in, in the post lunch session, and let loose after the tea break.
Something that Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar predicted during the tea break on Star Sports. "The youngsters can sometimes get cowed down by pressure. Not Rishabh Pant. He relishes the pressure.
"He would love to come down after Tea and hit the ball into the stands. He will come down after Tea, and would look to hit into the stands. He is realising that England are bowling so well that there are no easy runs on offer," were Gavaskar's words and how true would they come to be.
Pant put on an exhibition of attacking strokeplay on a tricky surface as he took a toll on the tiring seam bowling duo of Ben Stokes and Jimmy Anderson. He drove on the up and pulled with elan to put the pressure right back on the visitors, also allowing the young Washington Sundar to grow in confidence alongside him.
The left-handers took India past England's total and into the lead as the focus now shifted towards Pant's century. He shocked everyone by playing an ultra audacious reverse scoop off Anderson, which flew over the slips, while in his 90s. The century would come with a thundering six.
He departed soon after but had turned the tide in a span of half an hour of attacking batsmanship. Pant is clearly turning out to be the 'Ninja' in India's batting line-up.
While opposition bowlers are setting up plans to get rid of the big names like Rohit, Kohli, Pujara and Rahane, the pocket-sized dynamite is blowing these attacks to smithereens with one blitz after another.
This Test century is worth its weight in gold because of its timing and how it was scored. Team India is blessed to have a player like Pant and would hope to see him scale greater heights in the days to come. And the Dhoni comparisons must stop, at least now.
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