Coach Dravid says he will have a word with ‘keeper-bat to show better shot selection, but does not want to curb his aggression
Talk of a rude jolt and the Wanderers loss on Thursday in the second Test was one such for India.
Be it Temba Bavuma‘s dropped catch by Shardul Thakur in South Africa’s second innings, or India folding up for 202 after a decent start in the first – there could be quite a few moments we can put our finger on and say that the game slipped away right there. But the one that really stands out and has been a topic of conversation is Rishabh Pant‘s mode of dismissal on Wednesday, during India’s second innings.
With the match beautifully poised, Pant, batting at No. 6, tried an almighty heave against Kagiso Rabada and ended up nicking it to the keeper. Social media was abuzz, dissecting the dynamic keeper-batsman’s lapse in concentration while Sunil Gavaskar indicated that coach Rahul Dravid should have a strong word with him. The normally unflappable Cheteshwar Pujara, too, said that shot could be avoided and Dravid would perhaps have a word.
Dravid himself, though wasn’t too harsh on Pant, but made it clear that conversations are necessary. “We know Rishabh plays in a particular manner and he has got success playing that way. But we have to have conversations with him – no one will tell him not to be aggressive, but needs to be told that he gives himself some time,” Dravid said.
HORROR SHOT: Rishabh Pant‘s needless hoick against Rabada hurt India in the second innings at Jo’burg. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
It is exactly the point that former India keeper-batsman Deep Dasgupta also made. “If you remember Rishabh’s innings at Gabba last year that gave India that famous win, for the first 50 balls, he was ready to defend. He gave himself the time that is required to get used to the conditions and then started going for his shots. That’s one trait that has sometimes gone missing from his game of late,” Dasgupta said.
But when it comes to a player like Pant, the line of control is a little fine. Trying to curb a player as naturally talented as the Delhi boy could prove to be counterproductive, but Dravid has handled talents like that in his playing days. Virender Sehwag was pretty much the same when he started off, but his shot selection got better as he became more experienced. And by the time Viru retired, he was one of India’s greatest-ever opening batsmen.
“Viru, with time, believed in his defensive technique and he learnt how to play difficult spells out…Pant, too, has it in him, it’s just that he needs to trust it a little more,” Dasgupta said. Dravid, too, said that the team management understands “Pant can take the game away from the opposition fast…But he is learning and will keep learning,” the coach added.
The one thing that can give Pant a lot of confidence going forward is the fact that he has improved one part of his game -keeping –by quite a few notches.
During The Oval Test during his debut series in 2018, he had conceded a whopping 40 byes. He did concede 16 in the second innings at Wanderers too, but most of those deliveries flew over his head and were impossible to stop.
Add to that his assured catching and the occasional chatter to get under the skin of South African batsmen, and you’ve a complete package as a wicketkeeper.
“Pant has obviously put in quite a bit of work. In places like England and South Africa, where the ball moved around quite a bit, it is important for the keeper to move a bit late. Pant has made that small adjustment,” Dasgupta said.
The 24-year-old looks way more assured than what he was four years ago. It shows that Pant has the willingness to learn and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t get his Midas touch with the bat back as well to give Indian middle order the solidity that it has lacked of late.