NASSER HUSSAIN: Rishabh Pant is a rare breed of batsman who does not think about getting out, has an attitude like Ben Stokes and could swing the India-England series in the hosts’ favour
- Rishabh Pant reached 91 as India finished day three of the first Test on 257-6
- The 23-year-old has Ben Stokes’ bullish attitude and does think about getting out
- Pant showed his maturity when he played a key part in India’s win over Australia
- Jack Leach struggled against Pant – but he still has the backing of Joe Root
Rishabh Pant is an incredible, game-changing talent. Arguably a series-changing talent.
If he hadn’t batted in his no-fear style, if he lacked any self-belief, then India would not have won that match in Brisbane last month that completed their greatest ever series victory.
Pant does not think about getting out, he just sees the attacking option and knows what he can achieve. If he was a cricketer that worried about what things look like when you get out cheaply, he would not be engineering the kind of result that shocked Australia and thrilled the world at the Gabba.
Rishabh Pant brought up a masterful 91 as India ended day three of the first Test on 257-6
Pant was instrumental as India shocked Australia to win their first-ever Test series Down Under
His attitude is like that of Ben Stokes. What is the difference, when you have scored 91, if you are caught at short leg or the midwicket boundary?
Yesterday, it made for much more exciting viewing to have Pant playing that kind of innings. But don’t confuse him for somebody who simply has a slog. Until his dismissal, he had left deliveries from Dom Bess outside the off stump expertly and very rarely used his feet against him.
He recognised as a left-hander that trying to hit the off-spinner out of the rough with the ball turning away was a totally different proposition to facing a left-armer like Jack Leach when, with the ball spinning in, you can have your pads as a second line of defence.
What you do hope with a player like Pant, though, is that he assesses the repetitive nature of his dismissals.
That is the fourth time he has been out in the 90s, and the third occurrence of him doing so putting the ball up in the air against a spinner. Why did he suddenly change tack?
Was it because he had seen the milestone ahead, and was in a rush to get there? It is something to learn from. Bess was tiring and bowling him one bad ball an over, so why not sit and wait for it?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of his predecessors as India’s wicket-keeper, was a very smart cricketer and that is what he would have done.
Dhoni was a different style of cricketer in that he played the situation, whereas Pant plays a lot more by the seat of his pants — if you excuse the expression. Dhoni went ballistic as a last resort. For Pant, it is the first course of action.
At 23, though, he is still young. There has been some debate about his wicket-keeping and, yes, he does miss chances. But at his age, time is on his side.
Jack Leach kept receiving the backing of captain Joe Root despite a tough spell with the ball
One thing I wouldn’t do, as was suggested before this game, is play him as a specialist batsman. Having the gloves provides him with licence with the bat.
As the former England coach Duncan Fletcher used to say: ‘You can make a wicketkeeper better, but you cannot create a Test match batsman.’
And the passage of play when he launched a sustained attack on Leach was fascinating, although not one that should cause any psychological damage going forward.
Yes, Leach will now know that any time he bowls Pant will come running at him, but there can be a big positive taken out of that. It gives him a chance to take a wicket, especially at Ahmedabad — a bigger stadium with a bigger playing area.
And it was a pleasing sign to me that even though he sent down an afternoon spell of 5-0-53-0, he kept receiving the backing of his captain Joe Root.
Pant won the battle, but this will be an intriguing conflict going forward this series and Leach’s challenge is to use variations — some drop, some changes in pace, some flight — to hit back.
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