The journey to regaining his innate carefree approach on Monday has been rough. He had to walk a path with a sword dangling over his neck and every shot being scrutinized. In September, India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour went on to say Pant needed to understand the difference between being carefree and careless.
With this breathtaking counterattack of 97, it seems the Indian team management has embraced his game. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane reaffirmed: “He is definitely the X-factor. We had a strategy to send him up the order to get the scoreboard moving. Credit to him. We know he can win a game from any position and he is improving both with bat and keeping gloves.”
It’s been a bumpy ride to regain the confidence of the team management. Losing his place in all three formats in 2020 offered more questions than answers. And when the game resumed after the lockdown with the IPL, he had to fight fitness issues (which was largely about his weight) while he was figuring ways to rediscover his touch with the bat.
“He was stuck at his home in Roorkee during the lockdown. He didn’t have the facilities to train as an India player should. That’s how he put on weight. But he worked really hard once he reached Dubai for the IPL,” his childhood coach Tarak Sinha told TOI.
During the IPL, he was put on a strict diet. As much as Pant trained for his cricketing skills, he had to put in extra yards to reduce his weight. He has shed around 10 kgs in the last four months and aims to shed another few. There were instances when he felt he couldn’t generate enough power because he was on a diet that dealt with losing weight. Upon reaching Australia, his cricket training took a backseat and Pant was set on a strict fitness regime.
More than the fitness, his bat swing concerned Sinha. “I knew he will regain his fitness but he had to get his bat swing back. He was so confused that he became ultra-careful and got into a defensive mindset in IPL. His wicketkeeping will improve with fitness and confidence,” Sinha said.
In Pics: Injured Rishabh Pant missed out on a ton but gave India a fighting chance in Sydney
Flamboyant Rishabh Pant played a breathtaking counter-attacking knock on the final day of the Sydney Test to give India a fighting chance against Australia in the third Test. (Getty Images)
During the IPL, he decided he needed to work on his off-side game. He could afford to take his time as Delhi Capitals were doing well. Got his posture and grip right at the crease and the drives started to flow in a couple of month’s time.
It was somewhere during the mid-IPL, Pant decided to shut himself from the world. ‘Stay happy’ was his motto. He decided to stay connected to a small circle of people to cut out overdose of advice. “We told him to back the game he has played since his childhood and stay happy. He has been in a good mood in the last two month,” Sinha claimed.
Pant has found his zone with the bat. Now, if he can replicate this turnaround with the wicket keeping gloves, the Indian management would be sitting back in peace for a while.