The audacious extremes of Rishabh Pant

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From time to time, Rishabh Pant does something unexpected and crazy. Sometimes, it is praised. Sometimes, it isn’t.

5 March, 2021 India vs England, Ahmedabad : The new ball had just been taken by the visitors. Though the track wasn’t the most supportive for the pacers, a new ball always multiplies the chances for a wicket. Jimmy Anderson, one of the best exponents of it, is with the red cherry in his hand. After conceding two fours in the previous over, he is looking quite determined to give England a breakthrough. The batter at the other end is a confident and in-form Rishabh Pant, 11 short of bringing up his first ton at home.

Anderson runs in with his silky smooth run-up and lands the ball just short of the good length and Pant reverse swept it over the slips for a four. No one can believe what they just saw. Even the person who saw it from the best view possible, the umpire himself, takes a good 2-3 seconds before realising that he is obligated to signal a four, and not just enjoy the shot. The expressions on Anderson’s face while going back to the bowling mark read nothing but ‘wow’. It spreads on social media in no time. Many experts call it an act of sheer bravado and chutzpah.

Such was the audacity of that shot. While most batters would prefer playing out the new ball safely and then looking for runs, Rishabh Pant thrives on taking risks and displaying daredevilry. Time and again, he keeps playing similar outrageous shots to break a bowler’s rhythm to a larger extent.

Rishabh Pant vs James AndersonImage Credits: BCCI

Fast forward to January 2022 and the second Test between South Africa and India is at a crucial juncture. Having lost both set batters in short intervals, the visitors are in need of a short partnership to steady the innings. They have Hanuma Vihari and the Pant to trust upon. One ball into his innings, Pant is faced with a nasty bouncer; the awkward fend landing just in front of the fielder at gully. Kagiso Rabada is looking pumped up after accounting for two half-centurions, he is in no mood to give anything in the batter’s favour.

Pant gets ready to face the third ball and in a bid to do something different and distract Rabada from his line and length, he has seemingly pre-meditated his shot. Rabada bowls a short ball, and with little disdain, Pant steps out against a bowler constantly touching 145kph on the speed gun. Even before the audacity could have been questioned, Pant starts walking towards the pavilion, carrying absolutely no expression on his face. In no time, social media is filled with numerous posts and tweets lashing out Pant’s temperament and some even doubting his abilities.

Image Credits: Hotstar

Now, that’s where the narrative of the extremes of Rishabh Pant comes into picture. When it comes off, he would be unanimously lauded among fans and experts with social media going crazy. But when the same doesn’t go as per the expectations, he gets trolled for doing something absolutely unasked for. Social media users turn into experts in no time. In this way, Rishabh Pant’s Test career often resembles a pendulum, regularly oscillating between the two extremes.

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But come on, it’s Rishabh Pant. His audacity is what has made him the Rishabh Pant that is unlike any other batter. The pendulum has oscillated many times – from a dashing step-out six off an Adil Rashid’s googly off just the second ball of his Test Career to being dismissed in the nineties twice against the West Indies owing to his desire to continue playing his natural game no matter what; from reverse smashing Anderson to stepping out against a quicker and steamier Rabada. Rishabh Pant has done it all and experienced it all in his brief career.

But this is what won India the Border Gavaskar Trophy for the second consecutive time. Not only Gabba, but the counter-attacking 97 at the SCG was also an innings where the bowling side was made to revisit their plans.

It has frustrated you today. It will amaze you tomorrow. All said and done, the future of Rishabh Pant is also likely to oscillate between the two extremes of audacity, because this is what has given Rishabh Pant a name in cricket.