- May 8, 2002
- Reaction score
James Anderson, the most prolific fast bowler in Test history, was armed with the second new ball. Anderson had figures of two for 19 from 17 overs, and India had a slender lead of only 20 runs. Ordinarily, this would be a time to be respectful of the opponent's greatness, and the circumstances of the game. But Rishabh Pant is a cricketer conditioned in a very different way of thinking. Always he senses opportunity, not peril. And so, rather than seeing a bowler of Anderson’s reservoir of skill with a new ball, he sensed a moment to tilt the Test decisively in India’s direction. To Anderson’s very first ball, Pant charged down the pitch and launched him through long off for four. To his next, he reached for a wide delivery and smeared it through the off-side for another boundary. When Anderson returned at the start of his second over, this time at least Pant had the decorum to wait in his crease. Except, rather than meeting the ball with the full face of the bat, Pant bent down on his front knee to reverse sweep - or was it more of a reverse scoop? - the ball over the slips for four. One of the greatest bowlers in Test history was being bent to Pant’s will by a cocktail of impudence, incredible skill and sheer ingenuity. Pant’s temerity evoked a plea from Sunil Gavaskar, one of the greatest of all Indian batsmen, for him to remain responsible. At the start of the next over, Pant greeted Joe Root with a slog sweep over midwicket, nonchalantly clearing the man placed for the very shot to advance from 94 to 100 in one clean blow and reveal the broadest smile. It was a shot in keeping with Pant's essence. In 2018, when lofting his second ball in Test cricket for a straight six, Pant became the 12th Test cricketer in history to get off the mark with a six. He is the only one of the 12 to have reached his maiden Test century with a six - and, when he slog swept Root, Pant ensured he had reached both his first home and away century with one. Rishabh Pant: the making of India's latest superstar Yet, what Pant does is not reckless; it is simply his answer to the question of how to score runs. The chutzpah conceals that he is a calculating revolutionary. Over 20 Tests, Pant has already displayed an extraordinary sense of the shifting demands in Test cricket. In Ahmedabad, entering at 80 for four, with India’s prospects of reaching the World Test Championship final newly jeopardised, Pant initially responded with studious calm. His partner Rohit Sharma was playing fluently and Pant made only six from 23 balls. Now, with selectivity and calculation, Pant accelerated. He used his feet to launch Root for a straight six in his first over - a strategic blow, for it limited Root’s first spell to two overs and induced him to overbowl Ben Stokes - drove Jack Leach through wide long off and then scythed the errant Bess through the covers. Mostly, Pant’s trick was to score with alacrity while eschewing risk. When he brought up his 50 in 82 balls, Pant had only 22 in boundaries. But he does not need boundaries to score with haste: so fearful are opponents of what he can unleash that they allow him to pick-off singles with ease. These seemingly effortless runs are payback for the pyrotechnics.