From one maverick to another, Ravi Shastri revealed a conversation he had with Rishabh Pant last year during India’s home series against England that brought out another dimension to the India wicketkeeper’s batting. Shastri, who was the head coach of the Indian cricket team when Pant played those couple of remarkable innings in Australia and then found his mojo against England at home. And ever since, Pant has been a different cricketer altogether, doing things people don’t expect a Test player to do. Pant’s fearless approach, which includes treating world-class bowlers with disdain, isn’t an overnight evolution. Neither has Pant always been like this. As a matter of fact, it was Shastri whose pep talk with Pant forced to become a lot more, well, let’s say… entertaining.
“Last year I was talking to Pant and I told him I am getting bored seeing you throwing it away in the same fashion every time, aren’t you bored as well? So why don’t you try something different, something more outrageous… like a reverse sweep maybe? And I saw his eyes light up. It’s very important to back a player’s ability,” Shastri said during commentary on Sky Sports.
Shastri said Pant then went on to reverse sweep James Anderson in the Ahmedabad Test against a second new ball and then played that shot to a much quicker Jofra Archer in the white-ball series that followed.
“He reverse swept Jack Leach a couple of times. In the next Test, he did that against Anderson. Took a step ahead by reverse sweeping Jofra Archer, one of their fastest bowlers in the limited-overs series,” Shastri added when Pant was going hammer and tongs.
The same approach was once again visible in Pant’s batting as he scored his fifth Test century against England in the series decider in Birmingham on Friday. Pant scored a century off just 89 balls – the fastest by an Indian wicketkeeper – and not only register his second-highest Test score, but one that put India in a rather commanding position. From 98/5, India finished the day on 338/78 with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja being the perfect foil as the two put on a 222-run stand. Pant eventually perished for 146 off 111 balls as India strengthened their grip of the opening day of the Test.
Pant and Jadeja were both new to the crease when the batting duo decided to bide their time and play themselves in. As usual, Pant’s assault inflicted more damage of England. He took a special liking to Leach, first scoring 4, 4, 6 off him in an over and later taking the left-arm spinner for 22 off an over, which featured 4, 6, 4, 6. Pant took 51 balls to get to his fifty and thereafter just 38 deliveries to score his next 50 runs. Stunning indeed.
“He doesn’t waste time – what I liked today was the way he managed his innings,” Shastri said of Pant. He wasn’t prepared to take those high-risk shots early on. Even when he came down the track to Anderson it was measured. He knew exactly what he was doing and he’s that kind of player. He puts the pressure back on the opposition straight away.”