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If you can’t handle Rishabh Pant, you don’t deserve Shardul Thakur

by Rohit Sankar 3 minute read

The very people raving at Shardul Thakur’s devil-may-care madness at The Oval on day one were questioning Rishabh Pant’s daredevilry that went wrong and you don’t get to do that, writes Rohit Sankar.

I get it. He is a batsman. The other is a tailender. The first has been chastised for the very same horseplay previously. The other is still in the nascent stages of his Test career.

But there’s no justifying Pant’s dubious premeditation — the Chris Woakes slower ball clearly throwing dust in his eyes and dirt on his image. I am not throwing in the casual, ‘this is how he plays’ line either because that shot evidently does not deserve to be put into the aforementioned category.

But, before we castigate Pant for his daring stunt with the team enfeebled by another shambolic showing from the large chunk of the middle-order, it’s probably worth remembering why Pant is there in the team in the first place.

“If your top six or seven don’t do the job, that extra batter is no guarantee of bailing you out,” Kohli quipped at the post-match press conference when asked about the possible inclusion of an extra batter. That logic also applies to Pant’s role in the side.

Let’s face it. His defensive technique is far from ideal. What he is good at is deflecting pressure the other way. He’s shown us that he is good enough to do that multiple times, irrespective of conditions and the quality of the attack.

Sure, he is in the middle of a dreadful England tour, but so are three-quarters of batsmen from either side. The case, as always, with Pant, is being selective with the deliveries he chooses to go after. In this case, he got it wrong.

The high-risk way he plays, he is likely to get it wrong many times in the future too. We are talking of a batsman who has played similar slogs twice in the nineties in his Test career to be dismissed both times. We are also talking of the only Indian wicketkeeper-batsman with Test tons in England and Australia. We are also talking of India’s second-highest run-scorer in the format since 2020.

Let’s face it. That’s how…(well, I’ll say it)…he plays.

If you can’t take Pant at his worst, you don’t get to enjoy Shardul Thakur, the man who square drives Mitchell Starc for fun and stares down Aussie batsmen, simply because Pant at his worst is really Thakur at his best and on day one of The Oval, the two coincided.

An over after Pant was dismissed, Thakur dazzled — a whip for four, a straight lofted drive for another, and a no-look six in the next over — which was a not-so-subtle reminder of what Pant’s approach could on the good days. Not that England needs reminding. Not that the world needs reminding. But sometimes in a world obsessed with a well-rounded batting average of 50 and in the intricate clichés of Test cricket, a Pant can get lost.

In the most exhilarating few overs of the day, Shardul drew the sword and went about giving the video editing guys some overtime work with a spectacular highlights reel of shots all around the wicket. In eight overs, 127-7 turned to 190-8 as Shardul finished on 57 off 36 balls.

You could draw parallels with several of Pant’s Test knocks, but you choose not to because this is a tailender having fun and a batsman in whites has to adhere to a code of conduct when batting. Gabba 2021, Chennai 2021, and Ahmedabad 2021 wouldn’t have happened if Pant was a sworn-in Test batter. That’s right, all of those happened this year. And you were there.

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