Rishabh Pant is a throwback to the era when big hits were an outcome of a high backlift and a powerful downswing.
Modern-day batting has become more about the bat speed and less about the bat swing. The focus, today, is mostly on cocking and then uncocking the wrists at the time of impact. Virat Kohli is a good example of how batting is increasingly about forearms and wrists, where you don't throw the weight of your body behind the shot as much as batsmen of old used to.
Pant's strength is in the power he generates from his high backlift and free-flowing downswing. The momentum generated by the exaggerated movement of the bat and arms invariably throws the weight of the body behind the ball, which is why even some of his mistimed aerial shots land outside the fence.
Batsmen with high backlifts often seem to connect late on the ball. Batting is all about syncing the downswing with the incoming delivery, so when the bowler is too fast or too slow, the downswing may not be in sync, and therefore gives the impression of being a little late on the ball. Yuvraj Singh is currently facing this issue against both pace and spin.
But Pant's biggest strength, even more than his free-flowing bat swing, is his ability to read the line and length from the bowler's hand a fraction quicker than the rest. You rarely find him getting rushed into a shot, for his downswing is almost always perfectly in sync with the incoming delivery. More than against the faster bowlers, Pant's ability to read offspinner Sunil Narine out of the hand and then place his deliveries into the gaps puts him in the league of highly skilled batsmen.
However, high backlifts can cause some problems. An exaggerated backlift and downswing often leads to your body going off balance now and then. Pant's head falling towards the off side is a sign of this problem, and it gets a little more pronounced when he tries to play aerial shots behind square leg. But, to his credit, even while falling over, Pant rarely fails to make contact with the ball. Also, the falling happens only once in a while. On all other occasions, he manages to keep his head stable and his posture intact - which is necessary for big hitting.
Even so, the ability to hit sixes at will has a flip side: the temptation to try to hit sixes all the time irrespective of the match situation. Clean strikers of the ball, like Pant, don't look at hitting a six as a risk-taking option; they treat it like other batsmen treat playing a cover drive. While this attitude is a prerequisite for hitting sixes, it can lead you down a risky path.
Pant has been given a few opportunities with the India T20I side and he has failed to make the most of them so far. He can either view the limited chances as a little harsh, since there are others who have been given a longer rope, or he can look inwards and acknowledge that he could have done better with the chances he did get.
Since he played in MS Dhoni's absence, he needed to do enough to hold on to his place when Dhoni returned. Unfortunately, he didn't do that. But his innings against Royal Challengers Bangalore on a turning pitch showed that he's developing another gear in his batting, and if he's able to replicate that template often, he will be on track for regular success at all levels.
While there hasn't been much debate about Pant's batting abilities, there were always doubts about his glove work. But in the last two seasons of the IPL he has shown how much his keeping has improved. He is no longer dropping catches. In fact, he has started taking some seriously good ones, and effecting stumpings.
His running between the wickets needs work. During his 128 not out against Sunrisers Hyderabad, one of the finest knocks of this year's IPL, he was guilty of throwing a couple of his mates under the bus. Unfortunately, it wasn't the only occasion in the tournament when he failed to judge the availability of a run. He might have to start paying for his mistakes. It isn't ideal if your partners end up paying for your mistakes all the time.