An appreciation of “ultra aggro” Rishabh Pant at the 2022 Edgbaston Test!

How India lost the Edgbaston Test by seven wickets despite having a 172-run lead in the first inning is something that Sherlock fans and perhaps even the detective himself would quite like to investigate. 

Despite having been 64 for the loss of three at one stage, the visitors were in a really comfortable situation in the end (first inning) posting 416. 

And while massive plaudits must go to a Bairstow, Anderson and Root-powered fight back that raised India to the ground, thoughts must also go to man that elevated India in the first place. 

Raising his team’s position and thus, his own, to a point of massive ascendency was the very bottle rocket that makes headlines for being ultra aggressive. 

Rishabh Pant. 

Which brings us to the vital question: would India have reached a 400-plus total had Rishabh Pant not played a typically fireball inning scoring 146 off just 111 deliveries? 

Likewise, would India have been in a position to challenge England in the first place had Pant not paired exceedingly well with Jadeja?

Much of the headlines right now- and rightly so- belong to Jimmy Anderson for his vital fifer in the first inning and Jonny Bairstow for making 220 runs in the contest, including decisive centuries in both innings. 

But the man who first struck a century in what essentially became a game of several centuries, four to be precise, was Rishabh Pant. 

And truth be told, he played with the exact same intent and daredevilry that has so often plotted his downfall. 

It’s that high risk- high reward approach with the bat that may yield some strange dismissals at times, but also contributes massively to the team.

And to tell you the truth, it’s precisely what Rishabh Pant’s under fire team needed in the first inning when both Pujara and Kohli, big guns with the bat, floundered. 

There was pressure. But Pant bailed India out. 

Having said that, Rishabh Pant, who’s also come under increasing scrutiny for misfiring with the bat in the white-ball game, has sort of matured in his red ball credentials. 

Over the course of the past several months, he’s risen to a position where despite missing out on contributing in a game or two, his talent can no longer be dictated by one-sided narratives. 

Stories that suggest he goes into a thoughtless hitting spree.

There’s method to Rishabh Pant’s madness and it’s that he backs himself to clear the fence. He’s a risk taker, yes. But his risks also have rewards and aren’t uninformed punts.

We cannot afford to label him as being someone who only lives by the sword, anymore.

Can we?

For guess what, he not only lives by the sword, he slays his opponents to with it. 

This has helped his team a great deal. And actually, the Edgbaston heroics, even though, in a losing cause, seem to suggest that Pant has been the man on the job. 

Though, its not the first time that Rishabh Pant came to India’s rescue.

So how’s that? 

To find a good wicket-keeper batter is not easy in the game. Even the best teams fail to tick that box. After the great MS Dhoni, India were looking for a wicket-keeper batter that could be a stable head for a team largely in transformation.  

The fearless Rishabh Pant appears to be on the path that can often provide India a way. He seems the right man for the job as well.

Since Dhoni retired from Tests in 2014, India have struggled to find a keeper. Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel, and Rishabh Pant were among the candidates considered by the selection committee. 

They stayed with Saha for a while, but he couldn’t save his position. Karthik and Parthiv were also rejected by the selection committee.

Rishabh Pant, the powerful left-hander, hit his first century against England in 2018, which if you think about it now, appears quite some time in the past. 

He made his debut in the series’ Third match but failed to score in that and the subsequent, fourth Test. England had already clinched the series, leading 3-1. 

Resultantly, the fifth match was merely a practice game for both teams. Pant achieved his first Test century and formed a partnership with KL Rahul in the fifth match’s second innings.

Pant’s 2018 will be remembered as a pivotal year in his career, as he made his ODI and Test debuts. 

Pant was selected as a first-choice keeper for the 2018-19 Australia tour following the England tour. Pant produced a blistering 159 in the Fourth Test with his T20-style-Test innings.

Two international tours and he already has a couple of tons against fiery teams. 

He had a pretty great tour of Australia, lest it is forgotten. 

Yes; he’s too aggressive on occasions and perhaps for his own good. He’s been seen falling to terrible shot selection on occasions. 

But hey, can you tell a hawk not to pounce upon a predator? 

Are we not creatures of habit; habits we manifest often out of self belief that we can pull of something? 

Frankly, the out of form Rishabh Pant as seen recently in the white ball games must fight it out. And come to deserve a spot in the side that tours for the T20 World Cup. 

But, the debate over his place in Test cricket is implausible. It needs no further discussion.

Technically speaking, he can surely – and must- improve his glove work.

But that’ll come with more game experience. 

Having said that, Pant has a strong defense, according to experts, and his eye-body coordination is something that every batter should have. He is a better batter because of his strong defense and ability to counter-attack against great bowlers. 

He has improved not only his batting but, also, with performances with the gloves. 

With his match-defining efforts over the last couple of years of his Test career, it can be seen he’s silencing critics.

Maybe not all of them but then, even in this day and age, greats like Dravid and Kohli have some with their backs against them. 

India won back-to-back Border-Gavaskar Trophies on Australian soil in 2018-19 and 2020-21. 

Pant was on both winning teams. In the 2020-21 India tour of Australia, he made 274 runs and was a major player in helping India win the series and retain the trophy.

Pant’s two centuries came outside of India. He was pumped for England’s tour of India. 

Later, in the fourth Test against England, he got his first century at home at Ahmedabad. He takes on the spinners and gets going after he’s settled in the middle.

Isn’t he the most entertaining Indian batter in Test cricket in an age where entertainment and heroism are both needed? 

One cannot argue against this.

We all enjoy watching him because of his aggressive approach and exceptional shots. The way he smashes one-handed sixes and plays those sneaky reverse hits for boundaries is a sight to behold. 

He continued to shine in the Tests for the Indian team, slamming his third Test century in Cape Town against South Africa. India lost the series, but Pant’s batting was a plus point for India going ahead.

India’s tour of England just after the World Test Championship Final did not go his way. But in the rescheduled, just-concluded Test, let ur spare a moment to remember Rishabh Pant’s contribution.  

Scoring 203 runs in all and setting a record for scoring the fastest century of just 89 deliveries by an Indian wicket-keeper weren’t lame feats. 

Were they? 

Records that Rishab Pant recently broke

• Pant broke Dhoni’s previous record of 100 off 93 deliveries against Pakistan in 2006.

• He also became the second Indian wicket-keeper, after Farokh Engineer, to hit a century and a half-century in the same Test. 

He is also the first Indian keeper to accomplish this away from home.

• Pant is only the second keeper in history to score a century and fifty on English soil, following former English star Matt Prior.

• He broke MS Dhoni’s record for the fastest Indian wicketkeeper to amass 1000 Test runs.

• Before turning 25, he had the second-most runs under SENA conditions, after only Sachin Tendulkar.

• The first Indian wicketkeeper to score four test hundreds outside of Asia.

• The youngest wicket-keeper batter to smash 2000 runs in Test cricket.

Dhoni was the best keeper India has ever had, but Pant is nonetheless.  In terms of batting, the left-hander has already surpassed Dhoni. A batter who can strike a counterattack should be on every team. The English team is likewise taking an offensive style, with Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes leading the way.

Pant is a fantastic acquisition for Indian cricket. He is too young and has the ability to destroy any bowler. 

The debate about his place in test cricket must come to an end, as the critics who used to complain are now appreciating his game as well. 

Pant is on his way to becoming the best Indian wicket-keeper batter, courtesy of his “Pantastic” attitude.

– With contributions from Dev Tyagi

( Rishabh Pant image from his official Twitter account)

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