In the third Test of India’s tour of Australia, the visitors had it all to do as they chased down a score of 407. At the start of their second innings, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill got the Men in Blue off to a positive start, scoring a combined 88 runs until being dismissed by deliveries from Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, respectively. Following that, Ajinkya Rahane walked back to the pavilion after just 18 balls, before the series looked to be slipping away as Cheteshwar Pujara fell for 77.
In typical fashion, however, Team India didn’t give up. In the 118 balls that he faced, Rishabh Pant went on the offensive, scoring 97 runs. Although he was dismissed by Nathan Lyon, the 23-year-old spearheaded India’s memorable fightback, and, in turn, gave hope for a series win. As such, let’s took a closer look at Pant, and consider just how important he can become to the Men in Blue.
Leading by Example in the Absence of Big-Name Stars
Even though the visitors fell short of their 407-run target, few can dispute that their ability to hang on was something of a moral victory. Of course, like any sporting outfit, India required a bit of luck along the way. Tim Paine, who had stolen the headlines following an exchanging of words with Ravichandran Ashwin, dropped three catches, including one from Hanuma Vihari with just eight overs left to play.
In total, both Ashwin and Vihari faced a combined 289 deliveries as India managed to bat for 131 overs. While their resilience was on show for all to see, Pant’s efforts deserve recognition. Impressively, the 23-year-old took the fight to Australia while nursing an elbow injury. From Pant’s final innings figures, spectators would be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t a Test match, but instead a limited-overs game. On route to his near-century score, Pant hit 15 boundaries, including 12 fours and three sixes. Not only that, but his strike rate sat at 82.2.
Despite only making his Test debut in August 2018, the left-hander doesn’t look to feel the pressure of playing for the third-ranked Test side in world cricket. As Virat Kohli returned home for the birth of his first child, Pant rose to the challenge at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In doing so, he showed that he can fill the void left by India’s captain, and may be capable of doing so for many more years.
The Next Virat Kohli?
At the age of 32, Kohli is undeniably entering the latter years of his professional career. While, of course, that doesn’t mean that he’ll be walking away from the bat-and-ball game any time soon, India will be keen to find a talisman capable of ensuring long-term success in a post-Kohli era. As such, perhaps the Men in Blue should look no further than Pant. Crowned the Emerging Player of the Year in the Indian Premier League back in 2018, supporters have long held high expectations for the 23-year-old.
Playing for the Delhi Capitals, Pant fell short of winning the IPL in 2020, losing to the Mumbai Indians in the final. However, Ricky Ponting’s team will strive to go one better in 2021, and the 23-year-old will likely spearhead their charge for glory. As such, the Capitals will be among the favourites at many of Asiabet’s trusted gambling operators. And sports betting is on the rise in India, with an estimated $200 million being placed in bets for every national-team appearance at an ODI. Anyone considering joining the throngs can make the most of the above comparison site, for example, which approaches cricket experts to provide users with tips.
After Kohli went home, Ricky Ponting suggested that Team India call on Pant to strengthen the middle order. And, for the Third test, that’s what the selectors did. On reflection, his 97-run score justified that decision.
Unlike many others, Kohli isn't just competent but world-class across every format of the game. As such, a natural replacement will be tricky to come by. However, the former Emerging Player of the Year has already proved himself capable of producing match-winning scores in 20-over cricket. Moreover, his recent knock demonstrates that he’s got the patience and mental strength to strive in Test cricket.
Pant Can Go Right to the Top
Perhaps comparing Pant to Kohli isn’t the fairest reflection that one can make. Instead, because of his fearless batting style, leadership qualities, and wicket-keeping abilities, he’s more in the mould of MS Dhoni. Although it's unlikely that the left-hander will mirror India’s former captain, it's not impossible. If Pant’s display at the Sydney Cricket Ground is a sign of things to come, the future is unquestionably bright for the 23-year-old.