The chunky bracelet and the necklace are part of Rishabh Pant’s fashion statement. He has grown up in an era in which Bollywood mega star Salman Khan flaunted a similar bracelet and made daredevilry look cool. For Pant, though, it’s not just a piece of in-your-face jewellery. It’s something that his parents had got him with a stone embedded in it to keep him calm and to help control his temper. It has stayed with him since his early teens.
On Sunday evening in Manchester, Pant, like he has been doing so often of late, brought a sense of calm into India’s batting, which has seen some superstars at the top going through choppy waters. Eventually, Pant finished off the chase with his quintessential hair-raising belligerence.
It’s ironical that Pant, at 24, put a stamp on his evolution as a batter at the same venue where he was labelled a reckless cricketer three years ago, when his slog-sweep off Mitchell Santner ended in the hands of Colin de Grandhomme at deep mid-wicket.
It didn’t matter that the top three had cracked under the pressure of a World Cup semifinal game. It didn’t matter that his 32 had steadied India’s chase for MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to at least give it a shot.
‘Shot selection’ has been at the core of every discussion on Pant since then. Those who are close to Pant know how much he regretted hitting Santner against the wind that afternoon in Manchester. His carefree approach towards the game was perceived as a rather careless one by experts and people in charge at the time.
He was in the same dressing room where KL Rahul was preferred to don the gloves in white-ball cricket and Wriddhiman Saha was deemed the best fit for Tests in India. When he was initially overlooked for the World Cup in 2019 because of his lack of maturity, he had vehemently told TOI in an interview: “Things don’t change overnight. I am just 21. I can’t think like a 30-yearold. In due course, my mind will get stronger and there will be maturity.”
All he needed was some time and people around him to calm his mind, which had multiple thoughts racing across it. The picture of captain Rohit Sharma giving him a thumbs-up with a wide smile from the balcony after he finished the tricky chase, staying unbeaten on 125 on Sunday, is a reflection of the comfort zone Pant is in at the moment.
Sense of responsibility
For all his quirks and flamboyance, Pant has never been oblivious of his responsibilities. He lost his father when he was 19 at a time when the competition for Dhoni’s successor was heating up. “I do realize what responsibility means,” he would insist even after he won the Player of the Series award against Sri Lanka.
He has ensured his mother realized his father’s dream of turning their family-owned small school in Roorkee into a big school with all facilities. The players at Sonnet Club in Delhi are pampered by high-end cricket gear sent by Pant.
The people close to Pant will tell you he is always in search of ‘calm’. MS Dhoni has been his go-to person when turbulence hit his career just before the pandemic. After his childhood coaches Tarak Sinha and Devendra Sharma, Dhoni is Pant’s ‘family’.
Pant turned to looking up world leaders and sporting personalities online during his bubble life. That calmed him down when he was starting to wilt under pressure. When IPL 2020 came around, there was a perception that he went from carefree to ultra-careful in a bid to firm up his bid to be the rightful successor to MS Dhoni.
Ponting and Dravid effect
Ricky Ponting, while coaching Delhi Capitals, helped Pant shed the cobwebs in his mind. “Ponting has helped him realise that cricket is not the end of the world. Enjoying and being truthful to the game is most important. That’s why Pant didn’t get flustered when he got out trying to hit over the off-side in the T20I series against South Africa. Pant realizes he has a strong technique to play big knocks,” say people close to Pant.
The reassurance and sense of importance came to Pant when Rahul Dravid took charge as the head coach last November. One of the first phone calls Dravid made was to Pant. The discussion revolved around how Pant could be more comfortable. The results are showing now.
He has long wanted to bat up the order. Now that he has moved up to No. 5 in Tests and in the top-four in white-ball cricket, he has grown into India’s most consistent batter.
In his continuous search for calm, Pant has taken the cricket world on an exhilarating ride.
In Pics: Ton-up Pant sees India to ODI series win over England
<p>Rishabh Pant’s maiden ODI century guided India to a five-wicket win and a 2-1 series victory over England at Old Trafford on Sunday. (Getty Images)</p>