Rishabh Pant’s glovework has been shoddy in England and he needs to cover a lot of ground before he can be trusted as a Test-level wicket-keeper, some of the former India stumpers said Tuesday. The 20-year-old has conceded an unprecedented 76 byes in six innings in the ongoing Test series against England although at least 20-25 of those runs were not exactly his fault.
After watching him closely, former India ‘keepers Nayan Mongia, Kiran More and Deep Dasgupta believe that the Rourkee youngster is still a “work in progress”. But at the same time, they want the selectors to have a clear cut policy on young keepers given that Wriddhiman Saha is unlikely to start playing before another three to four months.
“He (Pant) is still very raw and I think it’s a wrong policy to pick players based on their IPL form. His basics of keeping are not correct. My concern is if he is not able to keep to spinners in England, he will have problems on fourth and fifth day tracks in the sub-continent,” Mongia, who has kept wickets to the legendary Anil Kumble, told PTI Tuesday.
Mongia then dissected his keeping against Hanuma Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja. “You need suppleness in shoulders. His shoulders are stiff. Now in England, at least the bounce is not uneven. But the test will be against Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep on the uneven fourth and fifth day tracks in India. Against pacers, he is just diving from the spot,” said the veteran of 44 Tests and 140 ODIs.
Asked about his preferred choice in the upcoming series against the West Indies, Mongia spoke about Parthiv Patel. “I think Parthiv was the second keeper in South Africa. How come he is not in the scheme of things? I think they should try Parthiv but it’s up to the selectors. I don’t know why there aren’t long-term camps at NCA for young keepers,” he added.
While Mongia spoke about recalling Parthiv, another former cricketer and analyst Deep Dasgupta feels that it could at best be a short-term policy. “Look, Rishabh Pant is your long-term future and he needs to be nurtured well. Yes, there are a lot of areas in keeping that he needs to work on but I don’t want to see a player being dumped after one series,” Dasgupta, who has watched a lot of domestic cricket as broadcaster, opined.
Questioned on any technical flaw that he has observed, Dasgupta said: “I think against seamers, he is trying to judge the angle of the delivery from the hand. You can’t do that in England. Also he needs to be stable in his position.”
Asked about what will be his choice for the next Test against West Indies at Rajkot, Dasgupta termed it a tricky one. “I guess the situation is fluid. Do the selectors want to go back to Parthiv? He recently scored 80 in a Duleep Trophy game. Now with Parthiv or even DK (Dinesh Karthik) you know what to expect. So, if you are looking at the next six Tests (including four against Australia), I don’t mind having the two veterans,” said Dasgupta.
But what about Kona Bharat, who recently scored a hundred against Australia A? Dasgupta replied: “Well Bharat is the best young keeper in the country. But then you need to be very cautious. If selectors think he is ready then it has to be till Australia Test matches. The policy needs to be spelt out.”
Kiran More, who has been a former chairman of selectors, wants Pant to get another chance against the Caribbeans at Rajkot. “I would ideally give him one more Test match. I feel for the boy. I believe he has been fast-tracked into Test cricket and England is not an easy place to keep wickets. But I would look at the positives. He hasn’t dropped any catches even though he has conceded byes. He is a terrific talent. I only hope that this doesn’t affect his batting,” More said.
Like Mongia and Dasgupta, More also spoke about how Pant needs to really work hard on his keeping. “Yes, he needs to work a lot on his keeping. There is a lot that he can learn in terms of technique. I am ready to work on him and help him out if he wants,” he added.