Rishabh Pant's inconsistent brilliance might just be what India need against Australia

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • With less than a week to go for the opening Test between Australia and India, Rishabh Pant might have just played the knock that seals his spot in the playing XI.

    The 23-year-old displayed his belligerent best against a tiring Australia A bowling attack in a 73-ball innings which fetched 103 runs.

    Retrieving the pink ball from the empty stands became quite the task for the fielders as Pant cleared the boundary ropes on six different occasions. Each one of his mammoth sixes was struck on the on-side, with the left-hander unleashing his trademark slog sweeps and ferocious pulls at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

    His century was brought up inside a single session, with 22 runs coming off the last over of the day’s play.

    It was at the very same venue two years ago that Pant announced his arrival at the Test stage. Against a bowling attack composed of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, the Delhi youngster had plundered 159 runs in an unbeaten knock off just 189 deliveries.

    That century meant Pant had become the first-ever Indian wicketkeeper-batsman to register overseas Test tons in England and Australia following his 114 in Trent Bridge earlier in 2018. The century in Sydney was supposed to sow the seeds for a long and fruitful India career from a young prodigy, always touted to be a future world-beater.

    Unfortunately for Pant and India, that has simply not taken off as one expected. Nearly 23 months have passed since that commanding performance in Sydney, during which the southpaw has made just four Test appearances.

    Wriddhiman Saha’s safer pair of hands have seen the senior wicketkeeper establish himself as first choice on the spin friendly pitches in India, with Pant being consigned to only overseas Tests.

    Meanwhile, Pant’s limited-overs career at the international level has ground to a complete halt and he failed to find a place in either the ODI or T20I squad in the recently concluded clashes against Australia.

    The shorter formats were meant to be his bread and butter given his ultra-aggressive approach at the batting crease, but a series of failures and frustrating inconsistency has seen his stock fall drastically.

    That he was about to lose his spot as India’s overseas Test wicketkeeper as well seemed likely when Saha was picked over him in the previous warm-up clash against Australia A. To further put a spanner in the works for Pant, Saha helped his own cause with a fighting 54 in the second innings of the match.

    However, the last laugh might very well go to Pant after his blazing knock on Saturday. It was another timely reminder as to why he is so highly rated, and why he is worth persisting with despite his inconsistencies.

    At 23, the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane had not even made their Test debuts for India. At the same age, Pant seems like a veteran with as many as 57 international appearances under his belt.

    We have seen the best of him already, with the Trent Bridge and Sydney knocks bearing testimony. We have also seen the ugly side of him throwing away his wicket in a bid to play an ambitious shot.

    Ultimately, it is a side of Pant the Indian team management will have to accept if they are to see him transform into a world-class player.

    Saha might have the safer pair of hands and the more steadying presence at the batting crease. But it is hard to see the veteran turning the match on its head with his batting performances.

    With Pant, there will always be the likelihood of him taking the game away from the opposition in the matter of a single session. His ceiling is far superior. It is the same trait that has accompanied former greats such as Adam Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag, and India are lucky to have a similar talent on their hands.

    Pant’s previous track record in Australia should be enough to warrant his selection for the Adelaide Test, and his latest display only reinforces his credentials. It might not have been the most elite of bowling attacks on Saturday, with Australia A losing two fast bowlers to injury. Yet, Pant’s ability to thump the ball with such vengeance left a lasting impression.

    That he also provides the Indian batting order with a left-handed option at the crease is a bonus.

    Against a formidable Australian side which is ranked No1 in the world, the visitors will need inspiration from every corner if they are to hold their own. In Pant’s inconsistent brilliance, they might just have some.