CHENNAI: “While you were batting, you gave heart attacks to a lot of people.” These were India coach Ravi Shastri‘s words to Rishabh Pant after the euphoric series win in Australia. While it was perhaps said in jest, it encapsulates the enthralling yet nerve-racking range of emotions that others experience when the Delhi left-hander is at the crease.
At Chepauk on Sunday, Pant was at it again. He fell nine short of a deserving century after a counterattacking innings of sublime quality. In his 17 Test matches, it is the fourth instance of Pant falling in the 90s. And his dismissal came moments after Cheteshwar Pujara had been sent back to the dressing room.
Although India are aware that they have a match-winner in their ranks and don’t want to curb his natural game, Pujara said that the team management wants Pant to be a “little sensible” when the situation demands.
“I can’t be specific about the shots, but there is clear communication from the team management that there are some shots he needs to avoid. There are times when he also needs to understand the team situation. The coaching staff always tells him that he has to put the team first and be a little sensible.
“He has done that most of the time. There are times when he gets out and it looks ugly. But he will learn from his mistakes. He has a bright future. There are occasions when he can be a little more patient and build another partnership with whoever is there at the crease. I am sure he will realise that,” Pujara said on Sunday.
Pant’s battle against left-arm spinner Jack Leach was one of the highlights of the day. He took him for 48 runs off 21 balls, routinely depositing the left-arm spinner into the stands and completely ignoring the threat of the rough outside his off-stump. While some of those outrageous strokes reiterate what a special talent Pant is, Pujara – whose contrasting approach with Pant makes for a potent partnership – called for the 23-year-old to be more selective in his stroke play.
“Pant has his natural game. You can’t restrict him a lot. If he is over defensive, there is a possibility of him getting out while defending too. But he just has to be selective at times. He needs to understand the moments when he can take risks and when the team needs him to stay at the crease. Balancing things out is the most important thing for him,” was Pujara’s advice.
During Pant’s innings, it was once again clear that there is ‘a method to his madness’. He went after Leach only when the line was within the reach of his bat swing and the length full enough for him to advance. Until his dismissal on 91, he showed restraint for large periods against Bess too. Judging by Pant’s desire to constantly improve, it should only be a matter of time before he takes this latest lesson on board too.