RAJKOT: Just like the opening slot, India’s list of prospective wicketkeepers is also quite long. There is intense competition for the slot and one false step can result in confinement to the bench, as Dinesh Karthik found out in England. The beneficiary of that decision, Rishabh Pant, continued his run-scoring exploits on Day Two of the first Test on Friday.
If cricket lovers want entertainment, then Pant is the go-to guy. His unique batting style is almost reminiscent of the way the sport is played in lanes and by-lanes all over the country: whoever swings the hardest is the best batsman! And swing the bat, the Delhi boy did.A day after his 21st birthday, the Delhi player nearly became the first India wicketkeeper to pull off a second century in as many innings. But exuberance got the better of him, as he swung way too hard at a googly from Devendra Bishoo and holed out for 92.
Watching from the stands, former India keeper and chairman of selectors, Syed Kirmani felt Pant’s strong suit is his attacking nature which he should not curb. But he should also ensure that he does not miss out on big scores.“Pant’s gung-ho approach to batting is quite refreshing to watch. He should not change the way he plays the game. That may lead to trouble. What he should, however, look at is conversion. The classic example today was Virat Kohli at the other end. When he got set, he ensured he reached a century. You should not miss out after doing all the hard work,” Kirmani told Express.
The former Karnataka player categorises Pant as a batsman first and says that as long as he continues to score runs, there is no need to think of keeping alternatives. “He reminds me of MS Dhoni when I first heard of him. He was a terrific hitter of the ball but not that technically adept behind the stumps. He worked on his shortcomings and look where that took him. Pant has age on his side but first and foremost, he should look to keep getting runs. That is the only way to make yourself undroppable.”
Pant had conceded an unprecedented 76 byes in six innings in England, and people were far from impressed with his skills behind the stumps. Kirmani agreed Pant has a long way to go before he can become a good keeper but also blamed the system.“Pant’s footwork behind the stumps is not good. He does not move with the ball, instead dives at the last moment. These will take time. My main point is, look at the young keepers in the country. How will they learn? You have specific coaches for each and every position except for such a specialist role.”
With more challenging tours on the horizon, and a healthy crop of young keepers coming up through the ranks, what does the 1983 World Cup winner envisage for the future? “There are quite a few young talents but most are batsmen first. The experienced ones like MSD, DK (Karthik) and Parthiv (Patel) have improved their keeping with time. Hopefully, the younger lot can learn from them and improve behind the stumps.”