Ranji Trophy: Rishabh enters folklore of Indian cricket

Rishabh Pant reached the three figure mark off just 48 balls during his knock of 135 in the second innings against Jharkhand. He has so far scored 799 runs in Ranji Trophy this season with four centuries which also included a triple hundred against Maharashtra.

Rishabh first hit the headlines when he scored fastest 19-ball fifty in the Under-19 World Cup.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Demolition Man. The word sits lightly on young shoulders of Rishabh Pant who entered the folklores of Indian cricket by smashing the fastest century in first class cricket. The 19-year-old wicket-keeper batsman reached the three figure mark off just 48 balls during his knock of 135 in the second innings of the Ranji Trophy match against Jharkhand at the KCA-St.Xavier’s College ground on Tuesday.

The knock was denouement of Pant’s special ability to hit the ball harder and longer than anyone else in domestic cricket. When he broke the record, there were few surprises and it seemed as if he was destined to break it.

Delhi’s coach K.P. Bhaskar, who has been following Rishabh’s career closely for the last two years, wasn't surprised a wee bit when the young lad broke the record. "He is a special talent who loves to go after the bowling from the first ball. It is his natural game and as a coach I have never tampered with his style.

"He hits with a straight bat and is supremely confident of his ability and nine out of 10 times he clears the boundary ropes. He is a future Indian player but he has a long long way to go as he has to improve his wicketkeeping,” said Bhaskar.

Rishabh, who first hit the headlines when he scored fastest 19-ball fifty in the under-19 World Cup has been prolific this season with the bat for Delhi. The youngster has so far scored 799 runs in Ranji Trophy this season with four centuries which also included a triple hundred against Maharashtra.

"I have always been an attacking batsman. If the ball is my range to be hit I go for it irrespective of who the bowler is. The aggressive approach has worked for me. Here I wasn’t looking for any records. My aim was to play positively. I was timing the ball well and enjoying myself. It is good feeling to set record," said Rishabh.

Rishabh struck 21 sixes in the match but narrowly missed out on the record for the highest number of sixes in first class game. In fact at the start of the season he requested his coach to promote him up the order and he has made it count. "After the first match, Rishabh requested me that he wanted to bat at number 5 which I allowed knowing his ability. I promoted him ahead of Milind Kumar and he has justified his promotion," said Bhaskar.

SAI coach and former India under-19 fielding coach Biju George who has worked closely with Rishabh Pant said, "Rishabh was an extremely good batsmen who can murder any bowling attack on good tracks but added that he needed to improve his wicketkeeping skills."

Pant has worked with former India wicketkeeper Kiran More at the NCA, to improve his wicketkeeping just before the start of the new season. Rishabh is extremely grateful to his coach Tariq Sinha of Delhi’s Sonnet Club for shaping his career. "He is more than a coach to me. I cannot express my gratitude to him in words," he says.

The Delhi-Jharkhand Ranji Trophy match was essentially a duel between two wicketkeepers. Jharkhand’s Ishan Kishan also made his mark with a blazing double century in the first innings. Rishabh shrugs off the rivalry between the two and says they are very close friends and claims there is no competition between them. Both Rishabh and Ishan represent the future of Indian cricket and if they realize their potential Indian cricket could only get stronger.