Rishabh Pant at the Gabba

After the Gabba win (Image: Mission Domination)

Edited Extract from Mission Domination: An unfinished quest by Boria Majumdar and Kushan Sarkar.

Rishabh Pant was dubbed a “young pretender”, “next big thing”, “adorable boy next door” and “wasted talent” all in a space of 18 months. He was always treading the thin line between heroism and insanity. So did the fickle minded fans, who would want him to hit sixes on demand as if it’s a concert where you want the singer to belt out numbers at your will.

“From the World Cup to Australia, it was an eventful journey,” said Rishabh during an interaction with us.

“We had a massive opportunity to win the World Cup but it rained during that semi-final in Manchester and I was out early, something that lingered like a bitter aftertaste for the longest time as I had a chance to finish that game against New Zealand. Post World Cup, I did go through a low phase but slowly, I regained my mojo, got my focus back because there is always room for improvement just when you feel that you have covered all your bases,” he said.

Hard work! You bet he did as Shastri said that once he had come with the baggage – an extra 12 kilos put on during lockdown, the cricketer during the start of the Australian tour “worked his backside off” according to the head coach.

The 97 and 89 not out in Sydney and Brisbane will stand the test of time for many more years.

So how did he plan two of the most talked about innings in Indian cricketing annals?

“The team management had a clear instruction. Go for victory and anyone who knows me would know well that in my mind, draw is always a secondary option.”

Just like “Process” used to be the most “abused” word in Indian cricket during the mid-2000s when it would be liberally thrown by anybody and everybody at one another without even understanding the context, in recent times, “expressing yourself” and “being fearless” have replaced it.

Rishabh Pant is a “fearless batsman” is the most cliched reference to a cricketer, who is a wee bit more than just being a mere “Mr. Bravado”. Yes, the six at the Gabba off Lyon was an act of daredevilry but with Rishabh, every act that seems like “madness” has a “method” attached to it.

“The ball that turned square and beat me was not pitched in line but outside. Now Nathan Lyon is a fantastic spinner. I tried to get an idea of what must be going through his mind. My hunch said that he would now try to pitch it in line of the stumps and get it to turn from there. So I had decided that if he tosses it up, I would step out,” he explained his thought process.

Image from Mission Domination

“If its in my area, the ball should be deposited in the stands,” the gentle assassin explained his craft.

It was a sound cricketing mind talking about a picture perfect execution.

And when Washington Sundar came in to bat, both told each other “Macha I will go for the target” but then Washy very rightly asked Rishabh to anchor it as he went for the shots.

“Washy’s 20 odd was like pure gold,” Rishabh said.

However, it was hilarious when he started explaining the series winning off-drive.

“In my mind, I had to run three and the moment I hit it, I told Saini, “Just Run”. Then I realized that he has already done his groin and it’s very difficult for him to just sprint. And then suddenly, I realized that mid-off is not even chasing the ball which suddenly found legs because of the slope. And then it crossed the boundary, what a feeling man,’ he explained.

If a man was explaining how he played Nathan Lyon, his narration of the final shot was that of a school boy, telling his captivated friends a great story during the recess hour.

Also Read: India’s Problem of Plenty in Batting and the Opposite in Bowling

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