Young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant boarded the plane to Australia having faced the biggest low of his short international career. A disastrous Indian Premier League (IPL) followed a snub from India’s white-ball series. No one would have thought that the struggling young lad would return home a hero. Given the opportunity in all whites, Pant came with two scintillating innings to help India register a historic Test series win Down Under.
Playing in his own flamboyant way, Pant took the attack to Australia’s fierce bowling attack. Although missing out on a well deserved century, the gloveman helped tie the game in Sydney before scoring the winning runs in Brisbane. When quizzed where gets the courage to take on the world’s best bowlers of the world in their den, Pant came up with a cheeky reply.
“Every time you hit the ball in the air, you are taking your chances. So why not try for six runs? That’s what I think,” Pant told Hindustan Times. “If you’re trying to hit a six, like me, I know that sixes only fall outside the ropes and outside the ropes there are no fielders. So if you have done everything right, there is no problem.”
I wasn’t thinking about the injection or the elbow
In Sydney, Pant took to field with a sore elbow after being hit while batting in the first innings. Even so, he played a brilliant knock of 97 which set the stage for India to go on bat out a record 131 overs. Recalling the valiant knock, the Delhi batsman shares that he was not able to move his hand even after taking painkillers. But having spent some time in the middle, he found the groove and the rest is history.
“I would say both. Before I took the injections it was difficult for me to even move my elbow around. Very difficult. When I was taking the injection also I was very scared, because I had no idea how this would work,” says Pant.
“Even after the dose, when I tried a shot after some time had passed, the elbow was paining. But soon I got into the zone and I wasn’t thinking about the injection or the elbow after that.”
After a defiant knock, Pant succumbed at 97 trying to take on Nathan Lyon. Many questioned his shot selection given he was mere three runs away from the milestone. But Pant ruled it out as just a stroke of bad luck. He even asserts that if he gets himself in a similar situation again, he would go for the shot yet again without a second of hesitation.
“I thought the ball was there to hit. I still think so, even now,” he says. “Yes, I mistimed it and didn’t get a hundred. But I am going to try the same shot if that ball is bowled again at me. That’s how I play and that’s what I think.”
Pujara’s defiance inspired all of us
India’s Test win at the Gabba was a story of resilience. And Cheteshwar Pujara led the charge with his defiant knock of 56 while suffering numerous body blows. Pant shares his knock inspired the side to go all out and win the encounter.
“Puji bhai was standing there after getting hit some 10 times and still giving his 200 percent. That inspired me. That inspired all of us,” says Pant. “He was so determined to make his team win, that’s the team culture we want to build. Only then special things happen, when you keep the team first.”
The rookie batter asserts that he went out to bat with his mindset at winning the game for his side. And he did so in style as he finished unbeaten on 89. He shares that the team management gave him the green light to go all out on the opposition when the chase approached the climax.
“From when I walked out to bat in Brisbane, it was already in my head that we had to win the match. I never gave a second thought for a draw,” says Pant. “I was trying to keep us, as a team, in the game for as long as possible. Puji bhai and I had short targets in mind – 15-20 runs here and there and play till the end of the session and things like that.”
“Right at the end, when only 30-40 runs were left, they gave me permission to go for the target. But before that, I was doing whatever I could to keep us in the chase.”