Rishabh Pant deals with unfair pressure on return journey with calm and inimitable style

Pant made an impactful performance for the Capitals. Source (X)

It is unfair that he is being assessed against the backdrop of the ICC World Twenty20, but Delhi Capitals skipper Rishabh Pant’s countenance at the batting crease against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Tata Indian Premier League match in Visakhapatnam on Sunday night did not give any impression other than of being anchored in the present.

Though there were some patented strokes as Pant compiled a maiden half-century since his return from a career-threatening injury, even he would concede that the timing is not quite back yet. It is a measure of his mental strength that he went past the half-century mark in an innings played out in two parts, scratchy at first and breezy towards the end. 

Yet, the calm with which he waited for the death overs offered him the opportunity to rapidly move from 23 off 23 to 51 off 32. There was not even a whiff of frustration as Pant rotated the strike. Instead, all we got to see was his intent of spending more time in the middle and staying till the end in the hope that he could launch a few boundary hits.

It seemed bad when he could not time the ball even as Mitchell Marsh found the boundary with some comfort. And it got worse when Matheesha Pathirana landed a double-strike in the 15th over to see the backs of Marsh and Tristan Stubbs. The onus was well and truly on Pant to fire Delhi to a defendable score. And he did not let the side down.

With less than five overs left for the Delhi innings to draw to a close, he warmed up with a slash off a wide full toss from Tushar Deshpande to the cover fence. A pull to square leg for four and a pick-up shot for six over long leg off Mustafizur Rahman got his backers excited. But it was his joust with the slingy, Sri Lankan seamer in the 19th over that made him produce his best.

He spotted an attempted yorkerearly, and with deft footworkin getting the front foot out of the way, he sent the ball soaring over wide long-on for a six. It was a shot that left Pathirana wide-eyed in wonder. The next delivery was hit to the straight field for four and a square drive for four followed as Pant reached his half-century in 31 balls, faster than opener David Warner.

His dismissal to a catch at long-off, skying the ball when attempting another big hit off Pathirana was symptomatic of the batter who was searching for that amazing quality called timing. It has been but three games since he returned to the batting crease, having spent a year in rehabilitation after that horrific car crash.

However, if nothing else, he bought himself more time and forced the naysayers to step back. Make no mistake, as he offered enough and more clues that his cricketing intelligence is intact, he did enough on Sunday night to ensure that the conversations featuring him would only be positive. After all, he returned to the pitch six months sooner than his surgeon believed he could.

Of course, talent does not go away nor do skills diminish but it will take longer than three games for Pant to rediscover the magical timing that makes his batting so special. On Sunday, by parking his mind in the present and not letting it engage with the chatter outside, the 26-year-old was showcasing his eagerness to move away from the time when rehab was his only game

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