Pant’s approach fundamental to his own identity
“There is a thin line between carefree and careless. Pant has at times breached the line of carefree and careless,” Sunil Gavaskar said on Pant, during the WTC final in Southampton last June.
Sure enough, Sunil Gavaskar understands the sport much better than pretty everyone else commenting on Twitter or elsewhere, but there is a clear line of the aphorism that would irk any professional cricketer. The refusal to believe that risk and reward are the two sides of the same coin was a dangerous proposition. Imagine the life of a cricketer knowing his approach is received with accolades when a chancy knock succeeds and at the same time, you’d be blown to smithereens if the same doesn’t reward you. Hence, any criticism of Pant, not all invalid, is sure to be received with a pinch of salt.
Barely less than a week ago, heck in fact in the first innings of the ongoing Test, Pant was lambasted for his lack of game awareness and on Thursday, the narrative had taken a complete flip. Pant became only the second wicket-keeper in Test cricket to have scored centuries in India, Australia, England, and South Africa, after - guess what - Adam Gilchrist.
South African bowlers are all tall and they bowled more bouncers than their Indian counterparts and also induced more carries to the cordon. However, Pant resorted to his own way of batting. He bullied the Saffers by attacking 42.4% of the ball in the second innings - the highest by any batter - and yet had a false shot of 15.1%. While Kohli had gone completely stale in the first session, deciding not to take any undue risk, Pant became the enforcer in chief to ensure that India reached a point of respectability. South Africa are surely on course to secure the bragging rights but the intrinsic aspect of Pant’s patented style is one that you’d call a zone of genius.
Petersen makes his mark
South African cricket is going through a massive transition in the last three years, with the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, and Faf du Plessis stepping away. The retirement of Quinton de Kock has created a void that no one saw coming. Knowing the prowess, this was supposed to be a cakewalk for this all-conquering Indian side, but standing tall on the way, is a certain Keegan Petersen who has been the find of the series for the Saffers.
After failing in the Centurion Test, he scored a 62 and a very important 28 in the Wanderers Test before turning the game on its head at the Newlands. He came to the national set-up with a rich vein of form in domestic cricket and replicated the same intensity out there. One very important thing to notice was the way he went about his things.
In the ongoing series, he has already scored 103 runs on back-of-length deliveries while scoring 62 on balls landing on the slot. In simpler terms, he was going for runs everywhere he was seeing an opportunity and the reverse lap to Ravichandran Ashwin on the front foot was a clear testimony to the same. While one can also argue that he was lucky, with the throw of dice coming his way in terms of edges not flying, that was a clear example of how swiftly has he been able to mitigate the risks and follow them up with a solid trigger movement. Irrespective of the result tomorrow, the Saffers can be proud of having Petersen in their arsenal.
A DRS decision and an unnecessary reaction
Virat Kohli lives for these moments. He has that uncanny knack of being charged up by the “injustice” dished out to him and uses that as a motivation to get one back. But even by his standards, today’s reaction was uncalled for and should invite sanction from the BCCI. After the DRS review showed that Ravichandran Ashwin’s review would miss the stumps, Kohli was infuriated and the entire cordon went on a rampant campaign against the broadcasters.
Directing his remark towards SuperSport TV, Kohli referenced the Smith incident by saying, “Focus on your team as well when they shine the ball eh, not just the opposition. Trying to catch people all the time.” His animated reaction and KL’s comment about "The whole country against us 11” brought about a kind of tense atmosphere out there in the middle. The way whole things transpired while there was no physical evidence to suggest otherwise didn’t throw up a good showing.
While the call for a ban is a definitive hyperbole, Kohli’s comments need to be pulled back by the ICC. Here is a global ambassador of the game fuelling the discourse with a narrative that never lasted. It didn’t put Kohli nor the Indian team rallying behind him in good light.