Thursday, January 21, 2021

Pantabulous Kung Fu Panda

There are many architects behind the epoch making Indian series win in the just concluded Border Gavaskar Trophy. Rahane, the cool as Antarctica Captain who scored the only century for India in the series to lift the team from the debris of Adelaide36. Jadeja who bowled, batted and fielded with passion till he got injured. Ashwin and Vihari who saved the Sydney test with epic fight back in spite of being severely injured. Bumrah who carried the burden of bowling till another injury benched him.

Then there were greenhorns. The surreal Shubman Gill , the warrior Washington, the sharp Shardul, the nippy Natarajan and the magnificent Mohammed Siraj, who played spearhead in only the second test of his career. All this was built on an incredibly resilient foundation called Pujara.

But after we discuss everything about a great relay race, the world somehow tends to remember the one who ran the last lap and chested the ribbon. Rishabh Pant doing that was kind of poetic justice for the young wicket-keeper batsman. The ball just kissed the boundary rope as Pant and Saini kept running furiously to get those three winning runs.

Overweight, reckless, hyped up, useless, irresponsible and a lot more things. No youngster has copped as much flak and abuse as Rishabh has done over the past couple of years. He had two overseas test hundreds in England and Australia. He averaged over 4.5 dismissals after 10 tests, he had two 90 plus scores in two home tests. But his over enthusiastic batting and resultant failures in limited overs Cricket were magnified way beyond a common cricket follower's understanding. It's still difficult to fathom why he was treated so shabbily when such a brilliant talent needed support and assurance during difficult times. Perhaps, Pant needed all that because he's a hardened pro now at 23. A match winner, a test match winner in Australia. After 16 tests, there has never been a single Asian wicket-keeper batsman to match his statistics. And he wasn't even first choice keeper just 3 tests ago.

His wicket keeping has flaws but has not been a disaster like his critics would like us to believe. 65 dismissals as a keeper from 16 tests just cannot be called disaster. His batting is a mixture of genius combined with madness. After a ball turns two miles from a crack in the pitch, most batsmen would be watchful against the next ball. Rishabh steps out and whacks Lyon for a six of the next ball. That pretty much sums up the Pant Philosophy. He plays the falling scoop that gets him a lot of runs. Yesterday, he played the falling pull. With the ball dispatched, Pant was flat on the ground and smiling. He gets back on his feet in no time too.

He's overweight is a fact nobody can contest. But we cannot damn his fitness. May be the chubby frame is protecting him from injuries during those falling shots.

Rishabh Pant is actually a real life incarnation of the Kung Fu Panda. People can chide him for his eating habits, weight, lack of focus and a lot of things. But like Kung Fu Panda, he's a Genius with a capital G. He does a lot of talking and even sings "Spider-Man, Spider-Man" while keeping. He's an expert commentator on the stump microphone. He's a complete departure from what we'd got used to see behind the stumps for well over a decade now. The frozen calmness of MSD. Rishabh is no MSD. He's Rishabh Rajendra Pant and should not be compared to MSD, only to show his shortcomings. Because if we do that, we also must remember he has achieved a lot more in just 14 overseas tests than what MSD did in his entire career. Let that sink in. Let MSD be MSD and let us allow Rishabh to be the Pan-tastic future of Indian Cricket, in his own style.

When the cute, chubby, cuddly Kung Fu Panda realizes his potential, he wins and does that in style. His time has arrived on the big stage and he's here to stay. The rehabilitated and Pantabulous Kung Fu Pant_da.

Govind Raj Shenoy For DieHard Cricket Fans

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