It was August 2018, with India touring England in a five-match test series. The T20 and ODI series had been wrapped up by then, with the visitors taking the former and the hosts the latter. The Tests had also started off excellently for the hosts, winning the first two and needing just one more to take the series.
A 31-run win at Edgbaston followed by a resounding innings defeat at Lord’s meant that England were in pole position to wrap the series up early but heading into the third test at Trent Bridge, India announced that 20-year-old Rishabh Pant, for the first time in his career, would be taking the field for India in all whites. Pant, however, would have to wait for 76 overs before stepping onto the pitch after skipper Virat Kohli fell on 97. It is never easy to face your first ball on debut away from home, that too having just lost your skipper but having negotiated the first one, Pant promptly smacked Adil Rashid for a six off his second ball in test cricket, getting off the mark in style. He became the first Indian to ever do so, displaying a brashness that would become the centre of every conversation surrounding him.
This cricket analysis looks at Pant’s test career till now, beginning in Trent Bridge in 2018 all the way to Chennai in 2021 showing how the seemingly reckless and carefree batsman is transforming into one of the most deadly and calculative players in the world. Through our analysis, we will look at the average and strike rate of Pant against the different bowlers that he faced in every series. The bowlers with the most wickets against him in each series are highlighted in yellow and the sizes correspond to the number of deliveries faced per bowler.
Having made his debut in the third test in 2018, Pant went on to play the remaining tests as India lost the series 4-1. He faced the likes of Stokes, Broad and Anderson all in excellent pace bowling conditions and falling once to each of them, averaging just five against the impressive Anderson.
He was arguably more comfortable against Stokes and Broad, with a strike rate of about 60, but it was the leggie that he really took to. Having lost his wicket just once to Rashid, Pant averaged close to 55 against him with a strike rate of over a hundred. He clearly took a liking to the spinners, striking at 77 against Moeen Ali but having lost his wicket to the off-spinner twice he averaged just 17. Barring an impressive hundred in the last test, however, Pant’s scores were unflattering, registering three single-digit scores in the other five innings with a high score of 24. There were some positives with the hundred of course, but at the moment it still seemed like he had to find his feet in the longer format.
West Indies 2018
With his trial by fire complete, India then welcomed West Indies at home for a two-test series, with Pant once again given the nod. The southpaw came out all guns blazing in the first test, falling for 92 of just 84 balls, just eight short of an excellent century. Once again it was the leg-spinner that suffered the most, with Bishoo going for 50 runs of 39 balls against Pant. However, it was also the same leggie that dismissed Pant the most in the series, with Pant batting just twice and falling to him once, the same as right-arm pacer Gabriel, who Pant did not spare either, striking at 85. Twin scores of 92 in both tests had put Pant in the spotlight for his excellent hitting ability but his temperament was questioned, falling shy of a hundred twice in a row.
The 2018/19 Australian summer pushed Pant back to the headlines, with the fiercely fought series seeing India win 2-1 away from home. A few sledges at the middle and a questioning of his babysitting abilities stole a few lines but a stunning unbeaten 159 in the last test saw him score his second test hundred in nine innings. A look at the stats shows that Pant made easy work of some of the deadliest fast bowlers in the world, averaging 80 against Starc while striking at close to 90, falling to him just once the entire series. Hazlewood as well took Pant’s wicket just once with the left-handed batsman averaging 54 against him.
The battle with Lyon though was perhaps the most interesting, with Pant falling to the off-spinner four times in the series but also hitting 122 off 184 balls, averaging 30.5. You could say that he was once again targeting the spinners, but Starc would probably beg to differ. This was a series where Pant’s test future was once again scrutinised, with the keeper consistently scoring around the 30s for most of the series before his terrific knock of 159. With the World Cup beckoning though, the focus turned to the 50 over format where after initially having been left out of the squad, Pant was called up as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan.
West Indies 2019
Following the World Cup and a disappointing performance there for Pant, India travelled to West Indies for another two-test series. While Pant had looked so strong against them at home, his performances on this tour were well below par, having a top score of 27 in the three innings that he played. The trend was similar though, targeting the spinner, but averaging just 22 against Chase and striking at around 55 in a series where India dominated was not much to boast about. Following this, Pant missed out on the home series against Bangladesh, failing to make the test squad for the first time since his debut.
New Zealand 2020
Pant, however, returned for India’s tour of New Zealand in early 2020 but in a poor team performance, he was no standout either with scores of 19, 25, 12 and 4. The Indians were outplayed by the hosts and there was really not much to make out of Pant’s batting performance in this series. Southee, Boult and Jamieson all picked up his wicket one time each and with COVID-19 halting international cricket, it quickly removed Pant from the spotlight. When India travelled to Australia later in the year though, it seemed to be on the selectors’ minds with Pant missing the first test of the series.
After being reinstated in the first eleven for the second test, Pant never looked back, having the series of his life. An 8-wicket loss in the first test coupled with captain Kohli leaving for personal reasons meant that virtually nobody gave the visitors a chance heading into the last three tests. However, after a mediocre start Pant spearheaded the Indian charge, first coming to the fore with his attacking 97 in the third test that nearly saw India push for an almost impossible victory before Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin put on a valiant stand to draw the match. Another unbeaten 89 in the final test to chase down Australia’s total and breach fortress Gabba saw Pant thrust into the limelight and his stats from this series speak for themselves.
Averaging 107 against Lyon this series and striking at just above 65, Pant made light work of the opposition’s lead spinner and once again showed Starc no respect, not falling to him even once and striking at nearly 90 through the series. Despite losing his wicket twice to Hazlewood, the most of any bowler, he still struck at 75 and negotiated Cummins as well. The series was particularly important for Pant to display his ability to lead an Indian charge like many had called for him to do, and despite falling short of centuries again, he showed that he was surely maturing into a match-winner for his country and to prove this was not a flash in the pan, the England series arrived.
Pant started where he left off, and as he meant to go on, with a flashy 91 off 88 in the first test. Despite losing the game and the series precariously placed with both sides fighting for a spot in the World Test Championship final, Pant was unfazed. A key contribution of 58 in the second test and finally reaching his evasive hundred in the fourth test saw Pant once again play a crucial role in the Indian test side, taking them to the World Test Championship final.
His ability to pick his bowlers had shone through, targeting the lead spinner Leach and averaging close to 90 against him while striking at close to 150. He was also able to play out Archer, not losing his wicket to him and was good against Stokes as well. Anderson was the one who took his wicket twice, the most out of all the bowlers, while the right-arm off-spinners were treated with some respect but only Bess managed to take his wicket once.
Overall, Pant’s performances have been getting better with every series and despite having played more series away, his home record is terrific. The 23-year-old averages 75.67 while striking at 84.23 at home which are excellent numbers for the longest format of the game. His numbers are not bad away either, having faced top-class bowling attacks so early in his career, Pant averages 43.05 striking at a handy 66.32 as well. One more thing we mentioned is his ability to pick bowlers while building his innings and we classify this below.
The sizes of the dots correspond to the number of bowlers faced, with Leach the only left-arm off-spinner that Pant has faced and by far his favourite as well. The liking for spin is visible yet again with Pant striking right-arm leg spinners at over a 100 and averaging close to 75, having faced four of them since his debut. Left-arm leg spinners would be next, with Pant having faced three of them and not losing his wicket even once, striking at close to 80. Left-arm pacers follow, with Pant averaging close to 70 against the five left-arm pacers he has faced while striking at around 75.
The right arm off spinners fare better against the southpaw, with Pant averaging about 50 against them and striking at about 65 having faced eleven of them. The numbers are by no means bad but the sheer brilliance of the other numbers overshadow his performance here. Right arm pacers are the most in number, with Pant having faced 26 of them, averaging close to 40 and striking at 64.5, the weakest of his numbers.
Further splitting this into home and away, we see Pant’s performance against right-arm off-spinners improve massively, with the batsman averaging over 140 against them at home, having faced four of them at home. His values against the left-arm spinners are more or less the same but his average against right-arm leggies drops to 50, albeit his strike rate rising to about 130. He is yet to face a left-arm pacer at home and as for the right-arm pacers, both his average and strike rate increases at home.
Away from home, Pant’s strike rate against the right and left-arm leg spinners are above 90 and he averages 97 for the former and is yet to be dismissed by the latter having faced three and two of them respectively. His averages against right-arm pace and off-spin are largely similar while he averages 70 against left-arm pacers away from home, striking at 73.5. He is yet to face a left-arm off-spinner away from home as well.
Since his debut, Pant has the second-highest strike rate among wicket-keeper batsmen, marked in orange, and the fourth-highest average among them as well. His strike rate is also second overall in this span and with his average of 45, he is above average when compared to all batsmen who have faced a minimum of 1000 balls during this period.
It is no easy task to succeed MS Dhoni behind the stumps for India and if anything, Pant’s chirpy and loud nature is the polar opposite to that of Dhoni. His rashness early on saw him come under fire repeatedly for throwing his wicket away cheaply and some poor wicketkeeping performances meant that there was virtually no argument to consistently have him in your side. However, all the noise has seemingly fallen on deaf ears and still only 23, Pant has developed into one of the most feared batsmen in the world, bringing his brand of aggressive, counter-attacking cricket to the longer format of the game. Many said he could not succeed in doing so, but recent results have dismissed such claims and with more experience, it only seems like Rishabh Pant is getting better.