Rishab Pant has done mighty well in the recently concluded Border Gavaskar Series in Australia which India won. He ranks third in the batting averages behind the indomitable Chateshwar Pujara (74 .42), and Mayank Agarwal (65.00) at 58.33 runs per hundred balls that he faced. Even Marcus Harris, the most consistent batsman for Australia was a distant 39.85 behind Virat Kohli’s 40.82. Except in the first Test when he literally threw away his wicket in the second inning, trying to hit Nathan Lyon out of the ground, he batted well. In most of the other innings that he has batted, he was left to fend with the tail-enders and score as many runs as possible.
What I am wondering here is does a national team select a wicketkeeper who is a batsman or should it be the other way round for a Test match series. I for one think that the player chosen should be a specialist wicketkeeper first. In case equally talented wicketkeepers are available for selection, I would go for the better batsman among them. Rishab Pant has a lot of work to do where wicket keeping is concerned. His lapses in collecting the ball, the ones which he should have and some dropped catches could have cost India much more than what they have. Catches don’t come too often in Test matches and they have to be taken. Seasoned Test batsmen will make you pay for a dropped catch.
As I pointed out before in my post during the Indian tour of England, Rishab Pant moves too early when he goes for the ball. A wicketkeeper has to watch the ball out of the bowler's hand and has to remain squatted and on his toes till the ball pitches with his head still. That gives him time to gauge the swing or the spin of the ball in case of a spinner. It is after he has decided which way the ball is going to go that he starts to rise and takes a small step accordingly. He has not to worry about the inside edges. The inside edges, no matter which side of the wicket the batsman tries to play the ball, will come towards and he will not have to move much. It is the ball that swings or turns and which the batsman nicks that he has to concentrate upon.
Farokh Engineer and Syed Kirmani are also of the same opinion. Kirmani thinks that a wicketkeeper should be squatting and on his toes when a bowler turns to deliver the ball and remind there till the ball pitches. He feels that Pant is still in the cradle as far as his wicketkeeping technique goes. Coming to his feet too early, Kirmani feels that Pant does not move with the ball but dives to collect the ball too often. Engineer says, “A good wicketkeeper moves his feet, goes to the ball and does not dive all the time; uses his feet all the time.” With the trend of opting for a batsman who can also keep wickets, few wicketkeepers pay attention to their keeping skills.
At Nottingham, in the third Test against England, Pant had dropped Jos Butler when he was on one run. Butler went on to score his maiden century when England was chasing 486 runs for a win. Luckily India won the match. In the first Test against Australia, he let off Tim Pain by going for a catch down the leg side with his right hand instead of his left. That suggests he was in the wrong position in the first place. In the second Test match against Australia at Perth, he dropped an easy catch from Shaun Marsh off Hanuma Vihari. The batsman went on to score 45 runs. In the inning of the same Test, Pant was clearly caught on the wrong foot when Pujara dropped Harris on two runs. The catch was clearly Pant’s for the taking.
Rishab Pant is still young and learning but he has a lot of work to do if he is going to keep wickets for India in the Test matches for a long time. Just twenty years old now he can be on the scene for the next fifteen years if he learns fast.