Rishabh Pant: Every time I go out to bat, I just enjoy myself
'Keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant slams quickfire 159* to tire Australia as India declare at 622-7 on Day Two; says he doesn't think much about centuries
Since making his debut in Nottingham in mid-August, Rishabh Pant has scored two hundreds and as many fifties in nine Tests, boasting an impressive average of 49.71 to go with a strike-rate of 73.80. Upwards of 56 per cent of his 696 runs have come in boundaries — he has already struck 70 fours and 17 sixes — but he has shown as this series has progressed that he is not just a dasher.
His maturity as a batsman was on evidence at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) yesterday as well. Alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, he was a picture of watchfulness during a sixth-wicket stand of 89 as he followed team plans to the letter on Day Two of the final Test. Then, when the time came to get on the bike, he did so with consummate ease, playing strokes orthodox and cheeky as he hurtled to 159 not out in just 189 deliveries.
This big hundred complements an India record 20 dismissals in a Test series, solidifying his hold over the wicketkeeper-batsman's position. He and Ravindra Jadeja had a ball as they added 204 for the seventh wicket, a breakneck alliance that broke Australia's spirits on another spectacularly sunny day and muscled India to a mammoth 622 for seven declared.
Pant had made consecutive scores of 92 against West Indies in the Rajkot and Hyderabad Tests in October, so it was understandable that he tried to speed through the 90s. There was one miscued loft over long-off that fetched him a brace and took him to 96, and a slightly agricultural hoick through mid-wicket next ball for the boundary that brought up three-figures.
"To be honest, I was a little nervous," he admitted with a sheepish grin. "I was scared slightly [because of what happened against Windies], but I got through that phase quickly. Every hundred I score in international cricket is special because I have just started my career. But I don't think about hundreds. I always think about only what the team needs from me. That's my only goal. The team plan was to bat on for as long as possible. When you play according to the plan, the runs take care of themselves."
Especially when he and Jadeja were flaying a tiring Australian attack, it was clear that Pant was having a ball. "The best part of my batting is that everyone in the team have given me the freedom to express myself," he noted, relishing that license. "Every time I go to bat, I just enjoy myself; that's the only thing I love to do."
Rishabh Pant is the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test century in Oz
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