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How Pant beat the ‘noise’ ahead of dream Australia tour

The 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batter played two of his greatest knocks in the last two Tests of that unforgettable series in Sydney and Brisbane
Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant
File Photo

Our Bureau   |   Calcutta   |   Published 06.04.22, 01:04 AM

India’s tour of Australia in the 2020-21 season has been a “turning point” of Rishabh Pant’s life, which he has acknowledged. The 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman played two of his greatest knocks in the last two Tests of that unforgettable series in Sydney and Brisbane, as an injury-ravaged Team India, led by Ajinkya Rahane, recorded an incredible come-from-behind triumph.

India had won the series 2-1 with victories in Melbourne and Brisbane after an embarrassing defeat in the opener in Adelaide, where they were bowled for 36 in the second innings. In Sydney, where Pant, taking a painkiller injection after being hit on the elbow on Day III of that Test, hit a superb, counter-attacking 97 in the second innings, which was crucial to India carving out a draw.

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Thereafter in Brisbane, Pant scored 89 not out on the final day as India chased down 328 to win the Test and wrap up the series.   

At the Sydney Cricket Ground, when Pant arrived at the crease on the final day, India were struggling at 102 for 3 in their second innings after being set a daunting target of 407. “I took the painkiller injection during the game, went to the nets and I was trying to hold the bat. But it was painful.

“I was perplexed and also afraid after getting hit (on the elbow during the first innings). There was Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, and they would be bowling a lot faster,” Pant recalled that period in an interaction with India Women’s team cricketer Jemimah Rodrigues on Dream11’s YouTube channel.

However, things began to settle down after he started taking on the Australian bowlers, particularly off-spinner Nathan Lyon. “Rahane got out before lunch and I got tense. I went inside, couldn’t get my way, the pressure was building, and the Aussies were sledging because they were up in the game and wanted to win.

“Then it was my threshold. Mid-on was up and he (Lyon) bowled me there and I hit him over mid-on for a boundary. Next ball, he bowled there again and after a few overs, I hit him for a six. In the next over, the long-on was pushed back and by then, I was playing my normal game and getting runs,” Pant said.

“Suddenly the momentum of the match changed and we were in a position to win it. And slowly, my pain started lessening because I was concentrating entirely on every ball and so the focus on the pain was gone,” he added.

Pant, though, had also felt bad on not being able to take India to victory in that Test, more than missing out on a century. “I was feeling bad, not for missing my hundred but for not being able to win the match for India from such a situation.

“Then (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Hanuma) Vihari took blows all over the body and saved the Test. It was one of the turning points of the series for us and for myself as well. Gabba happened next,” he said.

Thanks to Pant, and Ashwin and Vihari thereafter, India managed 334 for 5 in the second innings to earn a respectable draw before moving to Brisbane. Pant was the leading run-scorer for India in that series, scoring 274 runs in five innings at an average of 68.50.

‘Lowest’ point

All wasn’t well, though, with Pant, especially when he was dropped from India’s limited-overs set-up before being recalled in the squad for the 2019 50-overs World Cup in the United Kingdom.

Looking back at that phase, Pant said: “I was not talking to anyone, not even family members or friends. I needed my own space. I just wanted to give my 200 per cent each and every day.”

Describing that as the lowest point of his life, he stated: “I was thinking, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ Mentally, that was one of the lowest points in my life. I was thinking, ‘What now?’

“Suddenly everything had stopped. You find yourself dropped from two formats. The noise was getting bigger and bigger. Everyone kept telling me, ‘It’s not possible’. But at the same time, I was just sitting there alone, thinking what I can do as an individual.”

Speaking further on that phase, Pant said: “The only thought going through my mind was, you keep putting your hard work each and every day no matter what happens. You give your 200 per cent and then we’ll take the result, whatever happens.

“I was just telling myself that there’s no choice but to do it.”



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