Suspense and thrill of binge-watching Rishabh Pant

Sunday noon at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru was just another day in the life of Pant. In smashing the fastest Test fifty - off 28 balls - by an Indian, on a square turner with inconsistent bounce, Pant once again showed why the sport for him is a human thrill ride.

Rishabh Pant smashed the fastest Test fifty by an Indian on the second day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.   -  SPORTZPICS

Watching Rishabh Pant bat is akin to watching a mystery thriller in an era of binge-watching. You know the protagonist, the major plot twists, and the end and yet, can't help but get lured into it all over again.

Sunday noon at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru was just another day in the life of Pant. In smashing the fastest Test fifty - off 28 balls - by an Indian, on a square turner with inconsistent bounce, Pant once again showed why the sport for him is a human thrill ride. He has embraced his imperfections, knowing well all that stands between praise and brickbats is a swish and a miss.

Pant is in more control of his batting than he lets others know. Over 34.5 of India's second innings, Pant made room and cut a Dhananjaya de Silva arm ball from right in front of the stumps to the third man boundary for four. It was a shot fraught with risks, especially on a diabolical surface like this, but not for Pant the simple cost-benefit analyses that would perhaps show that a shot like that just wasn’t worthwhile then.

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Two overs later, he goes down on one knee and lap sweeps Praveen Jayawickrama to the fine leg boundary. Control and clarity stood out in Pant's innings. He is a thinking cricketer with a solid game plan for every bowler.

The doubt and fear he instils in the hearts of the opposition showed when Sri Lanka employed a deep square leg, deep mid wicket and a long-on the minute he walked out to bat. That he still hit Jayawickrama for six off just the second ball he faced is as much a testament to his youth and daredevilry as it is to his tactical nous.

The same attributes were on display in abundance during the Newlands Test between India and South Africa earlier this year. On a day three-wicket, where South Africa's potent pace attack ransacked Indian batters with movement and disconcerting bounce, Pant hit an unbeaten 100 off 139 balls. The others managed a total of 98.

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Or during the first Test against England at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai in 2021. At 73 for four, India was 505 behind the visitor’s first-innings total, and Jack Leach was homing in on the rough patch outside the left-hander’s off-stump.

Pant, realising he would be a walking wicket if he stayed rooted, started stepping out and collected five sixes off the 21 balls he faced of Leach. “I thought I was playing in the IPL (Indian Premier League),” Leach would later say, joking about being at the receiving end of Pant’s ire.

India captain Rohit Sharma summed up Pant's game when he said: "His (Pant's) batting is his batting. We know how he bats and as a team we just want to give him that freedom to bat in the way that he wants to bat. But also keeping in mind certain situations of the game, where the game is going, we have also conveyed that to him. There will be times when you will smash your head and say 'why did he play that shot' but again we need to be ready to accept that with him when he bats."

On Sunday, Pant reached his fifty with an aesthetically pleasing cover drive. Two balls later, he holed out trying to launch Jayawickrama into orbit. Everyone knew that's how it was going to end but was hooked nonetheless. Like the mystery thriller, you are probably binge-watching.

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