Delhi coach KP Bhaskar did not fail to remind that his team have the batting firepower to chase down Maharashtra’s 635/2 declared.
“I had told you… they (Maharashtra) are 50 runs short,” the coach told Hindustan Times as soon as Day Three’s play of their Group B Ranji Trophy tie ended at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
Delhi may have been rocked by the early dismissals of their openers Mohit Sharma (18) and skipper Unmukt Chand (24) earlier in the day, but their middle order batsmen build partnerships to put the team back in the contest.
In the final over of the day, Delhi (376/5) lost Milind Kumar (45) to trail by 259 runs on a flat Wankhede track. After Dhruv Shorey (71) and Nitish Rana (44) added valuable 84 runs for the third wicket, it was wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant’s entertaining unbeaten 155 off just 165 balls (21x4s and 6x6s), that has kept Delhi’s hope alive.
Pant has been given a license to play his attacking game by his coach and captain. And he made full use of his freedom to good use.
Unfazed by Rana’s wicket at the stroke of lunch break, Pant stepped down the ground to smash off-spinner Chirag Khurana for a boundary off the first ball he faced.
Pant measured his aggression well during his 55 overs stay in the middle, unlike his 146-run knock in their Ranji opener against Assam for which he was scolded by the coach for throwing away his wicket.
He did not curb his instincts and punished the loose balls the way they have to be treated. Pant, especially was brutal against left-arm orthodox Satyajeet Bachhav, who went for 98 runs in 26 overs without a wicket. He was also the only bowler against whom he tried the reverse sweep twice.
“My coach (Tarak Sinha) and Rahul (Dravid) sir (his mentor in the India U-19 team and Rajasthan Royals) have told me to bat within my limitations. Discipline is very important while batting and I am trying to follow the same every time I go out to bat,” Pant said.
The 19-year-old, playing only his fourth first-class match, has already bettered his best score (146) from the previous game. “To get noticed, you have to score big runs. Everyone scores a century these days. If I have to do something different, I have to score a double hundred at least. The 146 I scored in the last match has counted for only a century. Scoring more than 150 runs or 200 counts for something,” Pant said.
Pant also made the most of his fortunes. He was given a life thrice when batting on 33, 62 and 93 runs. Towards the end of the final session of the day’s play, Pant looked a bit edgy and played some risky shots. The coach noticed the lapse in concentration and immediately sent a message to the southpaw. “He was batting beautifully. He looked keen to play his shots and I felt he might lose his wicket in the process which would have been a big blow to us. He was steady thereafter,” said Bhaskar.