Rishabh Pant: ‘It was an innings I was not planning'

The Delhi wicket-keeper batsman was nonchalant after scoring the second-fastest Twenty20 century on Sunday.

Rishabh Pant was removed as Delhi captain recently.   -  R. V. Moorthy

He gained and lost his captaincy, his form and his runs through the ongoing domestic season amidst all the churning in the Delhi dressing room. It took him just one innings on Sunday to answer all the questions his critics had begun whispering about his aptitude and attitude.

With an unbeaten 116 in 38 balls – 100 in 32 – against Himachal Pradesh in the North Zone match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy for a 10-wicket win for Delhi, Pant wrote himself into the record books. The fastest T20 century by an Indian and the second-fastest ever, behind only Chris Gayle, was also the first three-figure mark for Pant this season, who struggled in the longer format despite leading Delhi to a Ranji Trophy final after a decade.

His innings included 12 sixes, eight fours and oodles of nonchalance in the company of Gautam Gambhir, who faced 33 balls as the supporting cast in The Rishabh Pant Show.

“Honestly, it was an innings I was not planning and everything fit for me this once. Today I was confident because I was getting all my shots and I was telling myself that I should not try to snatch the initiative. You don’t have to play a waiting game but once you start getting your shots right, you can take the bowling on. It always helps to get your shots right in the beginning and it was my day,” Pant told Sportstar about the knock that propelled him to the top-five in the competition this season and justified the eight crore tag that Delhi Daredevils put for retaining him in the squad for the upcoming IPL season.

It hadn’t worked out so far for Pant. He got starts but failed to convert them. His highest score before this was 99 despite a strike rate over 84 and an average of 35. The fact that, at 20, he was given the job of handling players who have played almost as many years on the circuit played its part, affecting his freedom to play and adding pressure. And Pant admits to it, just not in as many words.

“Yes it was a tough season, I was getting out despite good starts. Probably my anxiety to play my shots and play them early in the innings was affecting my time at the crease. But this today was different in the sense that I honestly did not make any plans for this innings. I have always looked at batting depending on what happens on that particular day and the kind of bowling I face,” he said.

Not that the bowling he faced on Sunday was particularly bad. It’s just that Pant was simply too good on the day. The only Himachal bowler, to escape was Rishi Dhawan, who conceded just three singles in as many balls he bowled to the youngster. But Pant also maintained that expectations were good to improve.

“I know there are expectations of me every time I go out to bat. Last season I started with a 300 but I could not maintain the form this year. I also got out to some very good deliveries. But I keep telling myself that if your team and supporters expect you to perform better, it means they feel I am capable of doing it. I always look at the team, not at myself. If I score well it’s good but I do not start a game thinking about what I will do,” he insisted.

Asked about the changes he made between the Ranji Trophy and T20, Pant said: “I had a chat with coach Tarak Sinha. He gave me a few technical tips, like my body was opening up which is why I was playing those false shots. That helped me a lot and I am sure this innings will please him. Reaching the Ranji Trophy final was the high point of the season, winning it would have been greater,” he said.