For all that MS Dhoni has done for Indian cricket, he’s ensured that an entire generation of wicket-keepers in India remain backups for a decade. But with him having given up the Test format, the backups have rotated diligently among themselves to share duties over the last season. And Rishabh Pant has ticked all the right boxes at the right time to grab the understudy spot.
“It was a great feeling to hear that I had been included in the Indian Test squad. I always wanted to be a part of the Indian Test squad and it was more like a dream come true for me. It was an amazing feeling, not only for me but also for my family and my coach Tarek Sinha sir, who helped me understand the game very early in my life. He has always wanted me to play Test cricket for India and when I got the call, he was very happy and proud and I enjoyed that moment,” Pant told bcci.tv.
The 20-year-old has been one of the few bright spots during India A’s poor showing in England recently, which included a half-century in the last game. He’s managed to impress his usually restrained India A coach Rahul Dravid, who didn’t hold back in praising the youngster. “He has the temperament and skills to bat differently. He is always going to be an attacking player but reading of the situation when you are playing red ball cricket is required. We are glad he has been picked into the national team and I hope he takes this maturity into the national team and hopefully builds from thereon,” Dravid had said.
A lot of cricketing pundits have been calling for Pant’s inclusion as a permanent fixture across formats in the Indian squad since his stellar domestic season, where he took up Delhi’s captaincy and finished with over 900 runs in the 2017-18 season of the Ranji Trophy, before translating the same form in the IPL. He doesn’t see a difference in his preparations when it comes to white-ball and red-ball cricket, or for that matter with Indian and English conditions.
“I reckon there isn’t too much difference, but it has got more to do with shot selection. In red ball cricket, with the field placements, you can look around; take your time, because you have five days to play. Whereas in limited overs cricket you have limited number of balls to play and score.
“I have so far enjoyed my preparation with red ball cricket. The Duke ball swings a lot when you’re here in England and initially when I started playing here with India A, I realized that the swing will come a lot into play in these conditions,” he explained.
Having been with Dravid ever since his under-19 days, including a couple of seasons when they were together in the IPL for Delhi Daredevils, Pant is all praise for the conversations the two have had, which has mainly been on the mental aspect of the game. “The only thing he always tells me is that you need to be patient about everything, be it on the field or off it. Also, how I need to work harder on my game when it comes to red ball cricket since I’m a positive batsman, but at times you need to play to the situation. See the pace of the game and change your game accordingly. These have been my learning from him wherein he has helped me a lot,” he noted.
Pant has also been the newbie around the Indian dressing room, trying to observe, pick brains. He continued, “Every time I come to the Indian dressing room, there is one thing that has always stood out for me. It is the positivity in the dressing room. Everyone is supporting and backing each other, which is the most important factor about this Indian dressing room.
“Similarly, with Mahi bhai, I used to ask him everything from my IPL contract to my wicket-keeping. He’s advised me on everything.
“He’s always told me that when it comes to wicket-keeping, your hands and head is important, the body balance can come into play later, but the key is the hands and head coordination. I worked on what he told me and it has helped me a lot.”
Pant has adjusted well, it appears, when it comes to dealing with England’s cold, England’s swing and England’s pace. Talking about his time in the middle, he added, “Whenever I walk into bat, I go with the mindset of what the team needs from me. In the game against West Indies A, there was a situation wherein I had to be more patient because there were enough overs and therefore I took my time and got India home.
“Also, in the game against England Lions, India A were not in a good position. We had lost four to five wickets and Ajju bhaiya (Ajinkya Rahane) and I were batting and I had to play according to the situation. So, I thought I’m going to take my own time and get set because in red ball cricket that’s what you do – you need to take your own time and play as per the situation.”
With a grueling tour ahead, it could only be a matter of time before the understudy is thrown into the deep. And it could well be this confidence that manages to keep him afloat.
India play five Test matches in England, starting on August 1 in Birmingham.
Share if you enjoyed this post!