First it was Michael Slater, and then came Virender Sehwag and now, Rishabh Pant following in the same footsteps? This analogy may force you to wonder what we are talking about!
Delhi Capital’s skipper Pant’s exploits in Test cricket have left no one in doubt that he is a generational talent and can change the course of a match or sometimes even a delicately poised series in a session or less with his belligerent approach. However, the same Pant looks like a different player altogether in white-ball formats and it is bewildering as his natural stroke play is tailor made for the shorter formats of the game. This is a rare occurrence in cricket and the likes of former Australian opener Slater and former India opener Sehwag comes to mind who too were extremely successful in red-ball cricket but not so in white ball.
Pant has already scored more Test hundreds (four) than the great MS Dhoni could manage in his entire career. Unlike Dhoni, Pant also got his tons in places like Australia, England and South Africa and each one has been scored at a breathtaking pace reminding fans and experts of the legendary Adam Gilchrist’s free-spirited nature of batting. While Pant has an enviable strike rate of 70 plus in Test cricket and an average of nearly 41, he has managed to play just two dozen games in ODI. However, his average (nearly 32) is not bad and his strike rate is very good (around 110). Although, critics might argue how come Pant is not even among top ten ODI strikers in the game which has Yusuf Pathan and Hardik Pandya ahead of him. And, of course, he has a long way to go to match the most fearsome Andre Russell whose strike rate is over 130!
Yet the Delhi player’s ODI record can’t be held against him but the moment you look into his T20I figures, it doesn’t give the impression that Pant is the most fearsome batsmen in the shortest format of the game. A batting average below 25 and a strike rate around 125 perhaps doesn’t do justice to Pant’s incredible talent. He doesn’t feature among the top 140 (forget the top 50 or top 100) players in T20I as far as batting strike-rate is concerned. In short, the free-flowing Test cricket marauder is not the same force in the shortest format of the game.
In many ways, Pant’s journey looks a bit similar like another great player from Delhi. Sehwag was colossus in red-ball cricket and his strike rate of 82 is best among all the batsmen in last four decades (strike rates in Test cricket were not officially recorded for the first 100 years of the game). Sehwag has had a terrific strike rate of over 100 in ODI but he is not among the top 20 of all-time in this format. Although, Sehwag was better than the former swashbuckling Australian opener Slater who used to go bang-bang from the word go in red-ball cricket and had a strike rate of over 53, but was a shadow of himself in ODIs (strike rate of around 60).
Test cricket has always been regarded as the hardest format to succeed. It has also been assumed that if anyone who can bat with a ferocious strike rate in red-ball cricket, they can repeat it in white-ball format. However, the opposite was rarely true and that is why the iconic ODI players like Michael Bevan and Yuvraj Singh never got the kind of respect they deserved. And in this context, it is a bit ironical that that very few ever argue that why a Slater or a Sehwag failed to repeat their red-ball hotness in white-ball with the same ease?
Can the same be argued about Pant? Since Pant has garnered a tremendous reputation in red-ball cricket, it also gives the impression that he may be equally savage in white-ball format, which of course is not the case. The moment you think about Sehwag’s greatness as batsman, besides his triple tons, there are many innings which quickly comes to mind while you have to stretch yourself in recalling even half the memorable innings in white ball cricket. And, it is not different with Pant as well so far.
Perhaps one of the reasons for lack of scrutiny in their white-ball games may be attributed to their respective IPL records. Unlike T20I, both batsmen live up to their reputations in the IPL and hence the red-ball impression doesn’t get diminished. If Sehwag’s SR is156 in IPL then Pant’s 147. Sehwag didn’t have too many competitors for his position as an opener in white-ball cricket and it didn’t affect his career but same can’t be said about Pant who is facing a tough competition from his contemporaries in white-ball cricket. The horrible form of Ishan Kishan in the current IPL has ensured that Pant can breathe easily for the upcoming World Cup in Australia however the likes of KL Rahul and Sanju Samson are always there to provide solid back-up options. And, if Dinesh Karthik can make a comeback as a finisher in Team India, it can get very interesting and competitive place for a wicketkeeper-batsman’s slot in the playing XI. As a batter, right now Pant is neither in top 25 (most runs in the IPL 2022) nor in top 35 (in terms of strike rate) and perhaps there is no better time than now to show his red ball characteristics in white ball as well.