Adam Gilchrist used to do this for Australia in an all-conquering team. Rishabh Pant’s Test career is still in its infancy and he has a long way to go to sit alongside his idol. But over the last three months, his contribution to the Indian team has been Gilchrist-esque.
Opponents used to run into Gilchrist if they had the good fortune of running through the Australian top order under Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting. Opponents, as Australia and England have learnt the hard way, run into Pant now, when India’s top order falls cheaply. On a day when James Anderson and Ben Stokes inspired England to play for pride, Pant’s scintillating hundred deflated them. It took the hosts to 294/7 at stumps, 89 ahead of Joe Root’s men, and in control of proceedings.
His 97 in Sydney, that raised hopes of an improbable victory, was scored after India had lost three wickets for 102 runs. His match-winning 89 not out in Brisbane was a virtual lone-ranger following the departure of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. No match is over until Pant is out.
In the grand scheme of things, the significance of the left-hander’s 118-ball 101 on Friday went beyond the Motera boundary. If his performance Down Under made him undroppable even in home conditions where India hitherto had preferred a better wicketkeeper, the innings he played on Day 2 took him to stardom. Virat Kohli is no longer the lone batting star in the Indian Test team. Pant has arrived. Kohli’s rush down the dressing-room stairs to applaud his young charge gave the century a starry overtone.
Performing in a crunch situation
India were 146/6 at one stage and struggling. England had applied the choke since morning and wickets followed. The tourists were one wicket away from gaining ascendency in the fourth Test. But they surrendered to Pant’s brilliance. Washington Sundar, too, rose to the occasion and remained unbeaten on 60 at stumps. But in a 113-run seventh-wicket partnership, his role was as support cast. But in no way did it devalue the effort of a 21-year-old, playing only his fourth Test and showing maturity beyond his years. But Pant’s stardust hogged the limelight.