Rishabh Pant - The biggest takeaway for India from the Test series against England
In the worst Test series loss for India under the leadership of the magnificent Virat Kohli, there are only a few positive to take back home. Uncovering Rishabh Pant as a lower middle-order batsman for India is definitely one of them, if not the only one.
India started the series without their regular Test wicketkeeper, Wridhiman Saha as he was nursing a career-threatening shoulder injury. India opted for their most experienced Test playing wicketkeeper, Dinesh Karthik, as MS Dhoni stopped playing Test cricket for quite some time now.
Karthik was also the lone surviving member from that 2007 historic England tour which India won under the captaincy of Rahul Dravid after a gap of 21 years! In fact, Karthik was the highest run-getter for India during that series with an aggregate of 263 runs at an average of 43.83, scoring 3 fifties in that process.
Karthik started poorly managing only a 0 and a 50-ball 20 in the first Test at Birmingham. The second Test at Lord's was a complete disaster, both for India in general and for Karthik in particular. In the second Test, he only managed a 1 and a 0 in both the innings. India lost that Test by an innings and 159 runs.
The Historic Debut:
With this loss, Karthik also got a finger injury and lost his place in the team and in came the young, flamboyant 20 years old stylish left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman, Rishabh Pant.
Pant, in his first Test at Nottingham, created history. He became the first Indian to get his first Test runs with a six. While facing only his second ball in Test cricket, he dispatched Adil Rashid for a straight six. In doing so, he became first Indian and only the 12th player on record to hit a six as the first scoring shot of his Test career.
And I am pretty sure that even if I name the other 11 players here, even an ardent cricket fan would be reading those names probably for the very first time. Pant went on to score 24 runs in the first innings before getting out by Stuart Board. In the second innings, he was not able to do much and scored only 1. But India was able to win that Test by 203 runs.
Not a great second Test:
Pant's second Test was neither good for him nor for his team. He scored 0 and 18 in the respective innings and India lost the Test as well as the series.
The final match of the series:
Having already lost the series, India was playing for pride than anything else. While batting first, England posted a decent 322 runs on the scoreboard. India was able to manage 292 runs in their first innings, thanks to the heroics of the debutant Hanuma Vihari, who scored a half-century in his very first Test innings and Ravindra Jadeja's 86 runs innings.
In the second innings, England scored 423 at the loss of 8 wickets before declaring their innings and invited India to chase a mammoth total of 453 in the last innings of the Test match. Alastair Cook, who was playing his last Test match was also saving one of his best performance for this Test as he was clinical in his approach and score 147 runs in 286 balls while scoring 14 boundaries. He was also well supported by his captain, Joe Root, who scored 125 runs in 190 balls with 12 boundaries and a six.
In response, India had a disastrous start and lost three wickets by the end of fourth over. Dhawan, Pujara, and Kohli were all wrapping up their bags and all hope to salvage a face-saving 3-2 series lost was over. On the last day of the match, initially Rahane offered a bit of resistance with KL Rahul but two quick wickets in the form of Rahane and Vihari almost sealed the fate of the match as well as the series.
Then entered Rishabh Pant. He, along with KL Rahul, played a special innings. At one point, the almost impossible was looking possible. Believe me or not, a win for India was a possibility. From 121 for 5, the youngsters took the score to 325 when finally KL Rahul fell to a ball from Adil Rashid which was similar to the ball of the last century bowled by Shane Warne.
In the meantime, Pant completed his century by hitting a six when he was at 95. And guess who he dispatched in the boundaries to complete his century? It was Rashid again. But, after the fall of Rahul's wicket, the Indian innings once again lost the momentum and the team was all out at the score of 345, giving a 118 runs victory to England in the 5th and the final Test.
The cloud with a silver lining:
The fearless, aggressive and sometimes outrageous stroke-making of Rishabh Pant was a delight to watch. He is young and he is fearless. He has to improve a lot on his wicketkeeping skills as he gave an unprecedented 76 bye runs in the six innings that he kept the wickets. But time is on his side.Saha will be out from the team for quite some time and Karthik didn't grab the opportunity thrown to him. No one else in the current roster is looking to challenge him and he has also proved his worth once in the final Test match. Hope to see a lot of Pant in the years to come. Adios!