Rishabh Pant, an important man in WTC final

The youngster will finish the tournament with 40+ dismissals as wicketkeeper in the top-five despite early jitters, but it will be Pant - the batsman - who the Kiwis will be wary of.

India wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant during a practice session at the at Adelaide Oval.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Rishabh Pant has the audacity to reverse-sweep James Anderson. Most of his carefree slog-sweep shots fly above the rope. At times, it is difficult to name a Pant shot. He can be unconventional. 

As a wicketkeeper, he is still a work in progress and it seems to be a steady one. 

No other stumper had a poorer start — Pant dropped 12 catches since the beginning of 2019 — to their Test careers. But he is one of the players who improved during the World Test Championship.

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Despite the lost opportunities, the India stumper recorded 40 dismissals — 35 catches and five stumpings — leading to the final against New Zealand in Southampton from Friday. He seems to be in the early phase of Mahendra Singh Dhoni; polishing 'keeping skills while contributing immensely as a batsman.

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After the series-winning heroics in Australia, he scored a hundred and two more fifties against England at home. Gradually with confidence, his legs also started moving better while keeping to spinners R. Ashwin and Axar Patel.

Record against pacers

The WTC final will be all about how the Indian batsmen play the New Zealand fast bowlers. Tim Southee and Trent Boult have the ability to improvise with seam positions and create caught-behind chances by moving the ball. When they are done, workhorse Neil Wagner will be ready with the bouncers.

Most dismissals by wicketkeepers in WTC

 

Tim Paine (Australia): 65

Jos Buttler (England ): 50

Quinton de Kock (South Africa): 46

BJ Watling (New Zealand): 43

Rishabh Pant (India): 40

 

Pant averages 32.1 against pacers which is better than Shubman Gill (29.0), Cheteshwar Pujara (22.2) and Mayank Agarwal (27.6). And it is certain the southpaw will score faster than most of his team-mates. His strike-rate of 71.5 in Test cricket is the best among the Indian batters.

Mental strength

Pant is a fearless cricketer. His comeback through the tour of Australia is no short of a fairy-tale. Till a year ago, he was not the first-choice 'keeper in all formats but now, the spotlight is back on him. 

Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Deep Dasgupta, who has seen Pant closely from the commentary box, lauded his self-belief.

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"Irrespective of the opportunities missed, he became more confident as a 'keeper. There can be minor changes here and there but him being able to see the highs and lows and come back from the lows, a year ago, deserves credit," he told Sportstar.

"It is a testament how strong he is mentally and how much belief he has in his game even after that kind of a low when he was not in the scheme of things.

"What I like about him is he is always looking to win games no matter what the condition or the situation is. You can get talent but that mindset is not something that you can develop, either you have it or you don't. It's one of his biggest strengths," said Dasgupta.

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