Rishabh Pant has now dropped 13 catches in Test cricket. Since his debut in the longer format of the game at Nottingham in August 2018, no wicketkeeper has spilled more. Although this conveys a great deal regarding the struggles of the 23-year-old behind the stumps, former India 'keeper Kiran More is not too worried.
More was asked to train Pant after 76 byes off only six innings were recorded against the Uttarakhand-born cricketer's name during his maiden Tour of England. More, who has played 49 Test matches and 94 ODIs, was impressed by what he saw during Pant's short stint at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru ahead of the West Indies series in October 2018.
The training camp worked wonders. It became all the more obvious when Pant came on record to credit the 58-year-old for the 20 catches, he snapped up during India's 2018-19 trip to the Australian shores, including a record-equaling 11 dismissals in Adelaide.
Pant, however, has drawn flak again during the ongoing Australia Tests, after having put down a couple of chances in Sydney and Melbourne. In a conversation with Sportstar, the former chairman of selectors More says what can be done to turn Pant into one of the best in the business.
Q. What do you think has gone wrong? Are there some techniques Pant needs to work on?
A. Yeah, of course. He is young. I mean, you don't expect Pant to become a champion wicketkeeper overnight. He has got some issues... flaws are there, that have to be rectified. The team management and the coaches need to work with him.
I think we need to have a wicketkeeping coach. It is important to monitor each and every 'keeper, who have been doing good, round the year and see what they are doing. The wicketkeepers of India, India A and India B... like Sanju Samson, K.L. Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Anuj Rawat in the under-19... in total about a group of 10 wicketkeepers need to be helped.
Rishabh had started off really well. You always make mistakes; you get into bad habits. When you look at his hand swing, it used to be much better. Now it has changed a lot. I think we need to work on that. These are minor things.
You talked about "changes" and "getting into bad habits". How do you think that happened? What were the things you worked on when he came to you and what has changed?
We worked on his hand position and his standing position, among other things. But yes, now a lot of that has changed. All these cricketers are now playing in the T20 format, where the ball hardly comes to you. The wickets are flatter. In Test cricket, on the third day, fourth day your skill detracts as the ball starts turning, jumping and sometimes keeping low.
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There are things he needs to work upon that can be rectified. He is a smart kid and very talented too. He picks up things quickly. It is in his own hands to improve. He himself can work hard on his technique. When you play in the long format, you need to have a proper technique. If you don't have good wicketkeeping technique, you will not last.
When I had worked with him two to three years back (at NCA), we had one or two camps and that's it. We need to work regularly. It shouldn't be like you take medicines only when you suffer from a fever. It's a process.
Besides obviously having way more stamina, how technically different is keeping wickets during a Test match when compared to donning the gloves in a Twenty20 game?
In the longer format, every session is very important. You don't get a chance to recover. In T20, even if you miss a stumping or a catch, the opponent will score maybe 30 or 40 or 50 additional runs. That is chaseable. Here, it is different.
Irrespective of that, you shouldn't make spilling chances a regular thing. He is a young fellow and that's why there is a lot of pressure on him and everybody is comparing him with Wriddhiman Saha. Wriddhi has studied for years and is a lot more experienced.
Don't you see a possibility in the coming days where both Pant and Saha get to feature in the playing eleven? Case in point being Australia, which plays Matthew Wade as a specialist batsman when Test skipper Tim Paine keeps...
I don't think there will be a good balance in the team. You'll lose out on a bowler. Why they keep Rishabh in the team is because it gives them a good balance. They can compromise on these drops because he is a guy who can win a match single-handedly. I think he is a good investment. Long-term.
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People like [Jos] Buttler or [Jonny] Bairstow also have often done badly but they can win you any Test match. Pant being a wicketkeeper-batsman may bring some difficulties initially, but there can be many advantages to it as well.
Pant seems to have a problem while standing up to the sticks. Why is that?
He needs to work on his stance. His hand position is very important regarding where he is catching the ball and where the ball is hitting... how his hands open up, how they close... these are the various places which need work. He has played 15 Test matches now and I think he needs help, regular help. I don't blame him.
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Everybody tends to lose technique so they need to be helped. Even Virat Kohli faced problems in England. So, I think we should give him time. Prithvi Shaw needs help, Ajinkya Rahane needed help too. So, I believe they all must get attention, individually.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a very different approach while standing up to the stumps. His reaction time used to be minimum because he used to thrust his hands forward instead of grabbing, going back and coming forward. That's a rare sight...
Yes, Dhoni used to go to the front after he had caught the ball. Here people don't do that. Dhoni used to wait for the ball, watch it. He took less time because he was smart and his hand, body and head position used to be so, so good. Here the positions are not proper, so of course, it will be difficult.
Does it take time to adjust to a hectic international schedule and in turn, different pitches?
Even in India, if they are playing up North, they will be playing on black soil whereas in West, it's red soil. I think Rishabh should also be prepared. He is an asset to the team and if the batsmen are attended to with such care, the wicketkeepers must be given that attention too. Even Wriddhi, for that purpose, might need help regarding technicalities.
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