Enter Pant, and all of a sudden Taijul is bowling a long and deep midwicket, before Pant even saw a ball. Before Pant does anything daring – in fact he’s 6 out of 14 – Taijul bowls around the wicket towards him. Pant is now doing daring things, sweeping a full ball between the keeper and the back short leg, jumping out and hitting a six, simply bending his upper body back to create a short length and pulling a four.
Pant may have doubters in limited overs formats, but he has been India’s best batsman in Tests for some time. Once again, promoted to No. 5 to disrupt the bowlers’ rhythm, Pant is doing what needs to be done when it appears Bangladesh are good at sealing conventional scoring ways for India’s top spot.
At the non-striker’s end is the familiar sight of Pujara with whom he has now spent 1184 balls in the middle in just 10 partnerships. That is an average of almost 20 overs that the two hit together. It is one of the most fascinating partnerships in world cricket. Pujara can make you feel like a good ball alone isn’t enough to get it out; Pant can only hit good balls to every part of the field. It can’t be easy for bowlers to adapt to these two extremes.
Pujara is perhaps the last of its kind: a batsman who pushes his defense to the limit in a world full of fitter bowlers and deeper attacks. More and more batters and teams feel it’s just not possible to wait to tire the bowlers before taking the runs you’ve earned. And yet there he is, making another comeback, doing what he knows, just with newfound bloodlust. Good balls out, soft hands when playing outside, dancing shoes on but just defending.
“Pujara has often said that he gets access to bad balls because of Pant’s presence with him. Pant can also rest assured that he doesn’t have to curb his aggression, which a fall from wicket at the other end can force him to do”
As you can imagine, Pujara probably feels that Pant can do so much more with the natural ability to take blows. Similarly, Pant probably feels baffled by Pujara’s insistence on giving the bowlers a good grind before taking it on. Still, they enjoy hitting each other because India enjoys that partnership. Five of their 10 partnerships started at 102 or lower. On each of those occasions, they have helped India out of trouble.
By the time they are separated here, India will have passed the dangerous period. They end the first day of their test season in predominance. A season in which they can afford no more than a single misstep to make it to the WTC final. It is perhaps safe to say that if India fails to get there, a team will have found a way around this partnership between two of today’s Test cricket eccentrics. And that’s not a gratuitous attempt to suffix “ball” to come up with a name for the way Pant-Pujara plays