They keep coming, the young and talented brigade. The bench strength of the Indian team already strong is getting stronger by the day and what’s more the youngsters starting to make their mark are fearless in approach, not at all overawed by the opponents’ record or reputation. They give the impression of really enjoying the game and in the process the impact on their teammates is infectious.
Reverse sweeps, switch hits, helicopter shots and dill scoops are all part of the cricketing lexicon these days especially in the shorter versions of the game. But when these breathtakingly innovative shots start making their appearance in Test cricket on a regular basis then, as the saying goes, it is a whole new ball game. Rishabh Pant has not exactly started something new. We have seen daring adventurers bring off these strokes for some years now but the 23-year-old Indian wicket keeper batsmen is remarkably consistent in pulling off these shots.
One must realize that the reverse sweep is not without the risk factor strongly hovering over it especially against a fast bowler. In the first place being a stroke against the science of batsmanship it can easily result in a catch if miscued. Numerous batsmen have met with this fate. Secondly the injury risk to the body is higher for if not executed properly the ball can hit any part of the body and could cause serious damage. The batsman must be in absolute control while essaying the shot as well as others not in the textbook and this is where Pant has excelled for when he plays it there is very little chance of a miscued stroke. Hot on the heels of his now famous reverse sweep off James Anderson in the Test match came his similar stroke against Jofra Archer in the first T-20 game against England.
Now there is another fearless striker of the ball in Ishan Kishan. The 22- year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand has been on the fringes of selection for some time now and when he finally got a chance in the second T-20 the other day at Ahmedabad he grabbed the opportunity with both hands clobbering 56 from just 32 balls with five fours and four sixes, shaping a run chase that turned out to be a breeze thanks to his brilliance and which saw him adjudged player of the match. Ishan is a bit different from Pant in that while also being flamboyant in his approach his strokes are more orthodox. He hooks and pulls with gusto but is also not afraid of playing the inside out shots.
It surely is only a matter of time before Devdutt Padikkal joins Ishan in wearing the India cap. The 20-year-old swashbuckling batsman from Karnataka has been making waves in the IPL and his superb form in the just concluded Vijay Hazare trophy must have taken him that much closer to achieving his ambition. With 737 runs including four consecutive hundreds he was one of the two super stars of the competition, the other being Prithvi Shaw who was the only one to better his figures (827 runs).
Padikkal’s batting tends to be a blend of the orthodox and the innovative but the fact remains that whether the approach is textbook or not the young brigade is unafraid in their outlook. They apparently have no fear of failure and that is perhaps their biggest asset.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal)