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From Delhi gurudwara to Fortress Gabba: Rishabh Pant's brave journey

India's Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal and Kuldeep Yadav celebrate after winning the fourth Test match. (BCCI Twitter)
India's Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal and Kuldeep Yadav celebrate after winning the fourth Test match. (BCCI Twitter)

Dubai - Sinha said the Pant-inspired Indian fightback following the end of Cheteshwar Pujara’s painstaking resistance on the final day of the fourth Test had its roots in a Delhi gurudwara



by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 19 Jan 2021, 11:13 PM

Rishabh Pant’s heroics for the injury-ravaged India at the ‘Fortress Gabba’ did not surprise Tarak Sinha, the legendary cricket coach from Delhi who first spotted the wicketkeeper-batsman’s talent at a summer camp in 2009.

Sinha said the Pant-inspired Indian fightback following the end of Cheteshwar Pujara’s painstaking resistance on the final day of the fourth Test had its roots in a Delhi gurudwara.

“When you come from a small town (Roorkee) to Delhi to play cricket as a 12-year-old, but you don’t have a place to stay and you end up sleeping on the floors of a Gurudwara, that means you are a fighter that never gives up. He brought the same spirit against Australia. Even after losing Pujara and Mayank Agarwal, he never stopped fighting for a win,” Sinha told Khaleej Times over phone from Delhi, hours after his pupil’s stirring, unbeaten 89 (138 balls) scripted India’s greatest Test series triumph.

Sinha first got a glimpse into Pant’s talent when he came to join a summer camp at his Sonnet Cricket Club.

“He impressed me a lot in that camp. I had great expectations from him right from the start because he had that rare ability to pick the length early. With other players, you need to work on that skill, but it just came naturally to him. And he was always a very clean hitter of the ball,” the 71-year-old coach recalled.

Pant’s commitment to his natural style, which is to hit bowlers for fun, eventually turned India’s fortunes on Tuesday as he put the formidable Australian bowling attack to the sword, bringing an elusive win on a ground where Australia had not lost a Test since 1988.

But more than anything else, it was Pant’s composure in the middle of a heart-stopping chase and his defensive ability to deal with the second new ball that impressed his first coach.

“He has worked very hard on his defensive game. You know, when he first burst onto the scene, everybody said he could play only on the on side. But now he is equally good on the off side. He is playing correct cricket shots because he is maturing as a cricketer after the setbacks of being dropped from the team. You know when you face a setback, the only way you can come back by improving yourself. And that’s exactly what he has done,” said Sinha, whose list of famous former pupils include Shikhar Dhawan, Ashish Nehra and Manoj Prabhakar.

Now the 23-year-old Pant, according to Sinha, is capable of producing more match-winning knocks at the highest level.

“Definitely. He has played only 16 Test matches and yet he has delivered so many great performances, he has two hundreds and three near-hundreds. If you are playing so consistently that means you are a quality player,” Sinha said.

“And, as I said, he is a fighter. He is someone who was dropped by the Rajasthan team for being an ‘outsider’. But the boy never lost heart. He had to fight for everything in life.

“Now all he needs is the constant backing from the Indian team management. If they keep backing him to play his natural game, he will continue to play match-winning knocks for his country.”


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