Rishabh Pant must be a relieved man. His unbeaten 65 off 42 balls in the 3rd and final T20I against the West Indies helped India register a clinical 7-wicket win and a 3-0 series sweep. India were struggling at 27-2 when Pant arrived at the crease with a target of 147.
The wicket was slow and the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat easily. But Pant showed composure and stayed put. He formed a vital partnership with captain Virat Kohli and ensured that he stayed till the end to take India home.
Pant’s unbeaten 65 was his highest limited overs cricket score and only his second fifty in T20Is. In fact, it was his second fifty in 18 T20Is and 9 ODIs combined. With scores of 0 and 4 in the first two T20Is of the series, questions had been raised once again about Pant’s ability to be a mature presence in the Indian middle-order. His mode of dismissals in both the innings – slogging and getting caught – had frustrated the Indian fans and opinion makers.
This isn’t the first time Pant has faced such criticisms. In his short career so far, Pant has been rebuked for his proclivity to throw his wicket away after getting set or even after just arriving at the crease. He often plays ugly hoicks and slogs towards the mid-wicket region or towards long-on and gets dismissed. It is frustrating because the left-handed batsman has so much potential and is seen as the future batting star for India.
At just 21 years of age, Pant has displayed his ability to smash any bowling apart and dominate the opposition aggressively. He has shown glimpses of hi talent in international cricket as well – his Test hundreds in England and Australia are testimony of that. In the IPL and in domestic cricket, Pant has breathed fire and has taken his teams to victory from impossible situations.
That consistency, though, has lacked in limited overs cricket. These are format that are tailor-made for his batting and he should excel in them. However, he has given his wicket on more than once occasion and that has hurt his team and his reputation.
But then, one must remember Pant is still only 21 years of age and very fresh in international cricket. He is young and has plenty of time on his hands. He will hopefully mature with time and experience and play more responsibly in the days to come.
The unbeaten fifty in the last T20I against the West Indies will hold him in good stead as he stood till the end and didn’t give it away. That is why captain Kohli was impressed with the young wicket-keeper batsman’s approach and lauded him after the match.
“We are looking at Rishabh as the future, definitely. Got a lot of skill and talent. It’s about winning and finishing games like these. He has come a long way since he’s started. If he plays like this regularly, we will see his potential shine for India,” Kohli said at the post match conference.
The 3-match ODI series between India and the West Indies will begin shortly. And that will present Rishabh Pant another opportunity to prove his worth at the top level. He must grab these opportunities with both hands and become a more mature batsman. That is essential for his and Indian cricket’s immediate future.