Rishabh Pant is your quintessential player. There is a touch of colour blended through his hair. He is highly active on social media and has a passion for expensive commodities. Before the Test series, he was seen showing off his elite, top brand leather shoes that he had purchased for an extraordinary amount to his teammates. But along with that flair, there is also a softer side and an attitude that seems to make him an ideal fit into current Indian setup.
Ironically, the day he was boasting about his expensive shoes, he was also seen giving food to the homeless people that were waiting outside a restaurant. Similarly, on the field, he is unflustered about reputations and situations, as he showed in his debut by advancing down the pitch and smashing his second ball in Test cricket over the ropes for a six, off Adil Rashid. It is the exuberance of youth, but there is also game awareness to his batting.
Pant admitted he was anxious and nervous before walking out to bat, but at the same time also mentioned that it was important to play the ball on its merit. After smashing the second ball for six, he had put a doubt in the opposition minds. Joe Root immediately employed men on the boundary and he was smart enough to rail himself in. It was closing in on stumps and the second new ball was due, so he was mindful of his shot selection.
Importantly, he had been in the country for nearly six weeks and had adjusted his muscle memory to play the ball late and right under his eyes. Perhaps the most impressive part was the way he left the second new ball and tightened his game to ensure he remained at the crease to start fresh the next morning. All this had happened in space of an hour and one could sense that Pant's batting was a mix of courage and attentiveness.
While a majority had only seen Pant walloping international bowlers into the stands during the IPL, a very few had watched him build an innings against the England Lions attack last month. Pant was the only batsmen in India A line-up to score a half-century in both innings of the match. Rahul Dravid after the tour had given him the green light by stating that he had the temperament to succeed in the longer format at the highest level.
As the Indian wickets tumbled at Lords, Pant was in the nets sharpening his skills against the new ball. At the fall of Dinesh Karthik's wicket, a player bowling in the nets told Pant to practice properly as there was fair chance he could be playing the next test. It was a cheeky comment, but Pant ignored the remark and swept the next ball with brute power, before driving the next ball on the up. He was not going to be perturbed by the pressure. He was always going to trust his instincts.
Rather importantly, it was his work with the gloves that would have left the Indian camp extremely satisfied. A year ago, there was still a question mark over his wicketkeeping and perhaps that was the reason that he had not been drafted into the squad for the Test series against South Africa.
But just like his batting, the 'A' tour had given him the opportunity to sharpen his skills away from the spotlight. Those associated with the tour say that Pant had really taken ownership of his game to another level.
After the Trent Bridge game, Pant told reporters about the benefits of the A tour and how keeping against the Duke ball had helped him during the Test tour.
"Keeping in England is always difficult because the ball wobbles a lot behind the wicket. The thing is that I have been playing in England for the last two and a half months so I know what I have to do now," the Delhi boy said.
Pant took seven catches in the Test and his keeping was sound. Although he had dropped Jos Butler he felt that his technique was still good and he had kept to his strengths.
"As a keeper, you have to wait for the outside edge. But for a bowler like Bumrah, he bowls from different angles, so we react differently to it. As a keeper you have to wait for the outside edge, that day I reacted too much on the ball and the edge came. I will learn from it. "he said.
It has only been one Test match, but from watching Pant go about his business he is the man who likes taking responsibilities. At the same time, he is also aware of his limitations. Last year after captaining Delhi in the Ranji Trophy for a few matches he immediately felt that the task was too much of a burden and stepped down. It was an indication that the 20-year-old knew his limits.
Pant might come across the player that loves the affluent lifestyle, but at the same time he also a man that is dedicated to train hard, play hard and filled with positivity. He is simply the exemplary model of modern India and going by his performance on debut, it seems like he is here to stay.
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