“DID you read what I wrote about you when you weren’t scoring for Delhi,” this writer had asked Rishabh Pant during a Vijay Hazare match at the Palam cricket ground in the national capital a few years ago. The wicketkeeper-batter was quick to ask, “Did you write anything nice about me?”
When told that the article was about his loss of form, Pant promptly replied, “That is why I didn’t read it.”
So at the Wanderers when Pant was out while playing an expansive drive off South Africa pacer Kagiso Rabada in the second innings of the second Test, there was widespread criticism. It was so strong that even Pant could not have avoided the same.
Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar, too, questioned his shot selection.
But herein lies Pant never-say-die attitude. He just kept his cool, knew his time would come and, on Thursday, he played one of the best knocks of his career after the Gabba innings in Brisbane that completely annihilated Australia and gave India a memorable series win.
Most importantly, he kept his mind away, like always, from negative comments when he went into bat with captain Virat Kohli.
Thereafter, he batted as if he was playing for his Delhi team. He was absolutely in no hurry to score but still maintained a fascinating strike rate considering the position his team was in.
Of course, there was no devil in the pitch and Pant’s assuming style made it look like chalk and cheese.
His unbeaten 100 is the defining moment of India’s South Africa tour and one which has put the ghosts of previous dismissals on the back burner.
It’s because he is a one-man army.
Kohli did take his time, curbed his instinct and looked tentative to showcase his array of strokes, but Pant was in sublime touch.
He wasn’t scared of getting out, stood at the crease without wasting the opportunity to score against poor deliveries. This mindset not only helped him to occupy the crease but also get set for a big score.
Pant is an improving wicketkeeper and is obliged to watch every ball coming out of the bowler’s palm. He has used that skill to watch the ball while batting, too, to great effect.
What happens from here on in the third and final Test of the series is not in Pant’s control after his swashbuckling century, but he has given India the necessary push.
His blazing knocks have made one thing clear to the world of cricket – no matter what you have, you will have to fight it out to beat this Indian team even away from home.