Kolkata: After several hits and misses, including the previous Test in Sydney, the cherubic Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant showed why the team management had kept their faith on him. If he hadn’t come to the party with a T20-like breezy innings of an unbeaten 89 off 138 balls (of which the final 55 runs came off 54 balls), India could not have made it in the chase for a highest target at the Gabba in Brisbane.
“The team management always backs saying that you are a match-winner and you always have to go and win the match for the team. That is the only thing I keep thinking every day. I always think that I want to win matches for India and I am happy that I did it today,” the 23-year-old, who was declared Man of the Match, said later. There have been several instances during his career when the youngster has come in for trolling in social media and criticism for his sudden rush of blood with things going well, including the ICC World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in 2019.
The highest target chased at The Gabba before India surpassed 328 with three wickets in hand on Tuesday was 236, way back in 1951 by hosts Australia against West Indies.
Over the next 70 years, although teams have made bigger fourth innings score at The Gabba - like 450 by Pakistan in 2016 - no one has chased a fourth-innings target to win a game.
When Cheteshwar Pujara (56) was the fourth wicket dismissed with the score at 228 on Tuesday and India needed exactly a 100 to win, the odds were stacked heavily against them.
However Pant, who initially batted in a circumspect manner while curbing his natural strokes and had buckled down in the company of Pujara, opened up after the departure of the India’s batting mainstay.
“I think this is the biggest thing in my life right now. I am happy (and thankful) to the support staff, and all the fans who supported me even though I was not playing the initial matches (the limited overs series games and the first pink-ball Test). But it has been a dream series I can say that. I had been practising hard and everything paid off because we won the series,” said Pant, whose inclusion in the longer format ahead of Wriddhiman Saha has often a debate among the experts.
The Delhi wicketkeeper’s technique has come in for scrutiny but the match-winning effort has probably underlined the fact that he is the right investment for the future - provided he works hard to shed the extra kilos and sharpens his technique behind the stumps.
Pant said he was more disciplined, although there were some loose shots too during the course of his Tuesday’s knock. “Yes, this was a fifth day pitch. The ball was turning a bit and I thought I have to be disciplined with my shot selection and if you win the match everything pays off well. Everything went so well.”
“It means a lot to us. I don’t know how to describe this, but our boys showed a lot of character and determination after the Adelaide Test,” skipper Ajinkya Rahane said at the post-match presentation.
“I’m really proud of each and every individual,” he added.