Rishabh Pant has transformed himself to emerge as India’s new batting hero as they thrashed England to clinch the series 3-1 yesterday.
Long criticised for being overweight and erratic, India coach Ravi Shastri said that the 23-year-old has “worked like hell” in recent months. And the results were clear for all to see in the three day triumph.
The wicketkeeper-batsman hit 101, took two catches and made two stumpings to be named man of the match in India’s win by an innings and 25 runs in Ahmedabad.
Even England were taken aback when Pant hit a boundary off fast bowler Jimmy Anderson with an audacious reverse hit over the slips
The left-hander’s third Test century and Washington Sundar’s 96 lifted India from a precarious 146-6 to their match winning first innings 365.
India 13th consecutive Test series win at home also secured a meeting with New Zealand in the World Test Championship final in June.
“This was a very important innings, especially with the team under pressure. There’s nothing better than performing when the team needs you the most,” said the 23-year old.
India coach Ravi Shastri said the match-winner was “simply magnificent”.
“He was told in no uncertain terms that he has got to respect the game a little more. He’s got to lose a bit of weight and work hard on his keeping,” said Shastri.
“We know the talent he has and he has responded. He has worked like hell for the last few months and the results are here to see.”
Pundits wrote off the chubby wicketkeeper for missed stumpings and throwing away his wicket after he rose to prominence with his maiden Test ton in England in 2018.
Pant shed the kilos and worked on his defence to score 270 runs including a 91 in the opening Test in Chennai.
Reverse flick off Anderson
But it was this innings that really got him noticed, particularly after he smacked the veteran Anderson for the cheeky boundary. Pant also reached his hundred with a six off skipper Joe Root.
“The way Rishabh bats makes it very difficult for bowlers to build pressure on him and to set fields sometimes,” said Root.
“When he pulls out a reverse sweep to a guy with 600 Test wickets, it’s quite a skill and a brave move to do.”
Pant said he “definitely would” reverse flick a quick bowler again if he gets a chance.
India’s cricket chief Sourav Ganguly said it won’t be the last time that the world witnesses Pant’s batting and called him a future “all time great”.
Pant’s glovework to India’s frontline spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel was also noteworthy. Senior batsman Rohit Sharma said he is “more than ready” to fill the void left by M.S. Dhoni’s international retirement last year.
India and England now head into five Twenty20 internationals starting March 12 at the same Ahmedabad venue.
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