“Nobody can question his prowess in the 20-over format and he is slowly heading in the right direction in the 5-day format as well. Given how he has done in these two formats, his performance in one-day cricket too might take an upward curve”
Known for his fearless batting abilities, Rishabh Pant in his short time in international cricket has shown the potential that he can go on to become a star for the Indian team. His talent was never in question right from the made his debut for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy. His fearlessness in taking on the bowlers or even the aerial route when you least expect it is some of the best features of Pant, who is all but set to make his ODI bow against the West Indies on Sunday. With that, Pant would have played in all three formats for India.
Converting starts into big scores is highly important when you play at the international level. Else, you soon lose out on your place to someone, who has done well in the domestic level. Pant showed tremendous attitude in the Test arena, where he scored a century in England and a couple of fifties in the series against the West Indies. It is safe to say that, he has more or less cemented his place for now. Although it will be interesting to see if India persist with him once Wriddhiman Saha recovers from his injury.
Nevertheless, Pant has made it to the ODI side, perhaps just at the right time. With the World Cup a few months away, now will be as good a time as ever to make an impact. He is in India’s XII for the Guwahati ODI ahead of Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey. Pant must grab his opportunity with both hands and ensure that he is the best man for the job. He will play in the limited-overs solely as a batsman as MS Dhoni is the preferred wicketkeeper. While Pant has been excellent in the T20s, in the 50-over format, he is yet to make a mark.
In his 34 List A matches so far, he has scored 838 runs at 28.89, but has a strike-rate of more than 104. He has a healthy strike-rate in all the formats and just lime he has been doing it for India A and Delhi in the last year or so, he could bat at No. 5 for India. There have been talks if Dhoni should bat at 5 or even at 4 in ODIs. With the inclusion of Ambati Rayudu, it is more or less assured that Pant will either bat at No. 5 or 6, depending on where the captain wants to send Dhoni.
In the triangular A series in England, Pant was tried in the opening position and at Nos 4 and 5. He was juggled around in the batting order and at the end managed to score 158 from 5 innings at 52.66. However, in the Delhi set-up, he comes into bat at No. 5 and at times at 6. It is a challenge batting in such positions. The batsman in this position has to either resurrect the innings after a poor performance from the top-order or has to ensure that they finish the innings with a flourish so that the team reaches a formidable total.
When under pressure, Pant likes to attack, play the big shots with the hope that it pays off. He is not someone who will block and let the pressure pile on him. He is a busy player and will keep the scorecard ticking. It is important to know at what stage to play which sort of shorts. That is something Pant will learn on the go, but for now, his natural attacking style of batsmanship that has gotten him this far will be the way he will play in the near future. With him sharing the dressing room against some of the top players in world cricket, a sense of responsibility too might creep in, which will only make him a better player.
Pant is an impact player, who can change the course of the match from any situation. The worrisome part for India will be his ability to adapt and adapt quickly to the 50-over format. If his performances in the recent tour of England with India A, and the last two seasons of the Vijay Hazare Trophy are to be considered, the reading is not particularly good. Pant scored a valiant 135 off 93 deliveries in a losing cause against Himachal Pradesh in February this year, which is his only score of significance in the 50-over format in the last 8 months. Since that century, Pant has scored 209 runs from 10 innings at 26.12, with a couple of fifties.
Since then, he did play well in the Tests against West Indies. Pant’s style of batting has fetched him good results in the First-Class level. His breakthrough season was the 2016-17 season, when he struck a 48-ball century and also scored a mammoth 308 in the same season. He finished that Ranji Trophy season with 972 runs at 81 with a strike-rate of above 107. He had a quiet tournament the following year, but then led Delhi to the final of the Ranji Trophy in the 2017-18 season, losing the final against Vidarbha with regular captain Ishant Sharma away on international duty. But his three fifties in the four innings in England with India A earned him a place in the Trent Bridge Test and he has not looked back since. His wicketkeeping skills have been under the scanner, having conceded a lot of byes, which is something he needs to work on.
By no stretch of imagination is Pant’s spot in the ODI side a permanent one. Jadhav and Pandey too will be given a chance ahead of him at some point to determine who is the best suited for the No. 5 or 6 role in the team ahead of the World Cup. Pant may have started his Test career on a positive note, but ODI cricket will be a different ball game altogether. Can he excel in this format too?
Nobody can question his prowess in the 20-over format and he is slowly heading in the right direction in the 5-day format as well. Given how he has done in these two formats, his performance in one-day cricket too might take an upward curve.