India were 163 for four and the game was in the balance when Rishabh Pant walked in on Day Three. A play and a miss, a bouncer that he almost wore on the helmet and a careless swish – after dancing down the track – later, Pant was back in the dressing room. Head down, disappointment writ large, bat tucked on his right, he pulled himself off the center at Wanderers.
167 for five, with the lead only 140 at that point. Eventually, the tourists were dismissed for 266 with a lead of 239, which didn’t prove enough as a gutsy Dean Elgar led South Africa home on Thursday.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, on air was aghast at the mode of the wicketkeeper-batter’s dismissal and said that Pant had to bat more responsibly. Quite understandably, there were a couple of questions about the 24-year-old in the post-match press conference.
“We know Rishabh plays positively and he plays in a particular manner and that has got him a little bit of success. But of course there are times when we are going to have to have some sort of level of conversations around that," said India head coach Rahul Dravid.
“No one is going to ever tell Rishabh not to be a positive player or not to be an aggressive player but sometimes it is just the question of picking and choosing the time to do that.”
It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up💪— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 7, 2022
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With Pant, there’s a certain method to his madness. In the home Test against England in Ahmedabad, he was on 75 when he attempted certain audacious strokes that might have left James Anderson befuddled. He charged down and smashed Anderson over mid-off before executing a reverse sweep against the veteran, who was bowling with the second new ball. Reverse sweep. Against a pacer. Let that sink in.
Only a couple of months ago, Pant was at the centre of India’s win against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane. The southpaw just needs to give himself some time before getting out his demolition derby, something which Dravid echoed.
“(It is) maybe giving yourself a little more time might be a little bit more advisable but in the end, we know what we are getting with Rishabh. He is a really positive player, he is someone who can change the course of the game very quickly for us, so naturally we won't take that away from him and ask him to become something very different.
"We will have a level of conversations with him," Coach Dravid on #RishabhPant's dismissal.— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) January 7, 2022
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“But sometimes, it is just about figuring out what is the right time to maybe attack and play out a slightly difficult period that sets the game up for you or sets your innings up.
“He plays in a particular way, so it's always something that he is going to keep learning, keep improving and keep getting better," he said.
Kill ‘em with kindness – that’s precisely what Pant has to do and it has worked for him. He will be tested with the short ball by the pacers and he could get into a tangle, given the nature of the surface in Cape Town. However, he doesn’t have to look long backwards in order to find a solution. Perhaps just bat the way he did in the second innings in Centurion for a longer period.
Just bring the method to the Pant-emonium.
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