Pant emerges as a complete batsman-wicket-keeper package


The new Mr. Natural has arrived, not since Australia’s Adam Gilchrist has a precocious batsman-wicketkeeping talent burst on the cricketing scene. Remember that Pant’s big hitting is now a familiar thing in Test cricket.

On Friday, he reverse swept Jimmy Anderson with impunity, startling one and all at Motera.

There was no doubt about Pant’s ability to first rescue and then take India home with the bat, an example of which he showed again on Friday with a swashbuckling century against England, his third in Test match cricket.

What has come good in the ongoing Test series is his ability with wicket-keeping gloves. Pant had kept well on difficult pitches in the previous two Tests, in Chennai and here, and also in this one, establishing himself as the No.1 wicketkeeper for India in all formats. This is a big leap in three months’ time at the start of which it was being doubted if he would ever be able to step into Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s shoes or that he has lost himself in the comparison.

However, a couple of series-defining innings in Australia in January and his blitzkrieg — 101 off 118 balls — on Friday that took India from 153 for six wickets, i.e. 52 runs behind England, to 294 for seven — and 89 runs ahead in just one session — has proved that he is set for a long haul.

India opener Rohit Sharma on Friday said, “He seems to be doing the job for us. He is more than ready, I guess [to step into Dhoni’s shoes].”

Through in this series Pant has performed well behind the wickets even as the ball has kicked and jumped.

Former India stumper Kiran More says he is a match-winner for him across all formats.

“I always maintained that unless you throw someone at the deep end how will he learn? That is what happened with Pant. He has been with Indian team for three years now. That was a very sad thing — not playing [him] in India. I don’t know what the reason was. He was young, inexperienced. Inexperience doesn’t help when you play in India. But you have to give opportunities for experience. Obviously, over the period he has worked hard,” More told IANS.

Pant wasn’t picked for Tests in India apparently because his wicket-keeping skills weren’t considered up to mark. However, he has shown in this series that he belongs to this level, both as a batsman and as a wicket-keeper.

“On Indian surfaces, a wicketkeeper is always in the game. If you do well, you get appreciated. If you drop one catch on a flat pitch, it tends to get noticed. But on tracks that aid turn, even if you miss an odd ball, people blame the pitch not your wicket-keeping skills. So, it is a bit easier that way,” added More.

Pant received a lot of flak for not batting sensibly. He apparently lost his place in the side for not batting with responsibility. A dismissal during the 2019 World Cup resulted in a lot of criticism. However, now he seems to have matured. He carried India to a resounding win with unbeaten 89 in the fourth and final Test against Australia in Brisbane in January, after helping India draw the third Test in Sydney with a 97.

Opener Sharma backed Pant’s batting style, which is aggressive and has remained mostly unchanged from the start.

“In the first half of his innings, he was fine, trusting his defence absolutely and then once we got to 200, he just wanted to take on the bowlers which is fine. You need those kind of players in your team who are not afraid to take on bowlers,” said Sharma, describing Pant’s batting on Friday.

Pant’s first half-century took 82 deliveries and then the next one took just 33. The innings was strategically well-constructed.

“He is going to get more dangerous, going to get more mature. He has always been a match-winner for me. He will get more dangerous with his ability and aggression. More experience he gets, the more dangerous he gets in world of cricket. He will win lots of Tests for India in all formats,” said More.