Updated: February 15, 2021 8:03:59 am
Has there been a more blatant case of leaving money on the table than not offering a Rishabh Pant mic audio as alternate commentary? The India wicket-keeper is part cheerleader, part coach, all chatterbox. And where else does the classic Spider-Man theme end in a kitschy “tune churaya mere dil ka chain”?
The hits from Australia are well-documented. But give a listen to Sunday’s compilation of couplets: “Ollie Pope ko Lollipop do”, “Thoda sa aage, Milkha Singh bhaage” and “Ball ghoomega toh yeh jhoomega.”
The ravings can swing from endearing to exasperating. Former India wicket-keepers, however, believe there’s a method to the mouthiness.
“Game me mahaul banana is very important,” says Kiran More. “It plays a huge role when someone is shouting and keeping everyone alert. There are times when there’s a big partnership. At times players feel dull or sleepy. But when Rishabh is around, he keeps everyone on their toes. He will pass a comment, will scream at the long-on, and will keep cheering from behind.”
Pant is certainly not India’s first talker-in-chief behind the stumps. Mongia’s post-delivery exclamation ‘Aai ga’ comes to mind. And Dhoni’s nasal tidbits to bowlers still make the rounds as ‘Thala compilations’. Pant’s chatter is a mix of the two, driven up to eleven.
“Different people prepare themselves differently. Sometimes when you’re talking like that, you’re lifting yourself as well. This is how you stay involved with the game,” says Vijay Dahiya. “You also have to watch every ball and concentrate and it’s good that he’s able to do both things.”
Dahiya, who’s observed Pant at the Delhi Capitals, adds: “I’ve always believed that the wicketkeeper is the captain when it comes to fielding. Helping the captain with the field placement and sharing how the pitch is behaving. How the batsmen are running. As far as talking goes, I think Rishabh’s somebody who gets like that with more confidence.”
On Sunday, Pant wasn’t short of confidence. He spent the morning dancing down the ‘minefield’, getting in some huge hits to extend India’s total. And during the visitors’ turn to bat, the classroom was in session.
“Kheench le, aage daal, side me daal, paer me daal. Upar daal. Tez daal. Dande sey daal, Upar daal. (Draw back the length, bowl fuller, bowl on the side, bowl on the feet, bowl ahead, bowl quicker, bowl from the stumps, bowl fuller). At one point, he even asked Axar Patel to “subah wala daal” (bowl the morning one) and Patel turned and quizzically wondered, “Kaun sa?! (Which one?!).
“The good quality about Rishabh is that his head doesn’t go down even after he drops catches or misses a stumping,” says More. “He is always on a high and always seen encouraging bowlers. He is constantly talking to fielders, giving ideas to the bowlers, trying to disturb the concentration of batsmen also.”
In Australia, when he erred behind the stumps to the pacers, there was a flaw that came to his help now. He has the tendency to take a slight short step to the left, on occasions, even when the ball is flying to his right. That had resulted in him reaching out to clang a couple of catches in the past. But that flaw helps his case, as it did today. He is a much better keeper when diving to his left as those movements help him get to the ball quicker. In fact, former India keeper
Sadanand Vishwanath had spoken to this newspaper about that “flaw” in the past.
“I have seen him wrong-footed. Moving to his left, when the ball’s line should have made him move right. That has made me sit up and notice. The ball might be outside off stump, but his first move – a decent stride at that – is to his left. I can’t say if that’s because he is a left-hander and has a natural preference there.”
Perhaps, as it showed today, it’s a natural preference. Slight recalibration between the two Tests helped too.
“On a slow wicket, it’s not easy to keep,” says More. “He is standing a little bit up for fast bowlers which he wasn’t in the first Test. It helped him to carry the ball on waist height and that is why he got hold of good catches too.
The good quality about Rishabh is that his head doesn’t go down even after he drops catches or misses a stumping. Body language is his power and he creates that environment behind the stumps.”
In short, for the opposition batsmen, there’s no friendly neighbourhood behind. Only a motormouth acrobat with webbing on his hands.
India’s motormouth wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant was in full flow on Sunday.
“Thoda sa aage, thoda sa aage. Milkha Singh bhaage, pyaara Axar jaage.”
“Ollie Pope ko lollipop do.”
“Ball ghoomega toh yeh jhoomega.”
“Fasega, fasega. Maza aane lagega.”
To Axar Patel against Dan Lawrence
“6 ball daal babu idhar. Angle bohot tagda hai tera, khelna hi padega.”
“Pehle hi peeche khada hai (laughs), muh pe bhi daal sakta hai isko.”
Virat Kohli on Rishabh Pant
“He’s (Pant) a guy who likes to have fun on the field. That’s his personality and essence. We want him to continue going in that manner because that keeps the boys entertained and conversation out there is very helpful when the situation is tough and things are not going your way. His personality is very helpful for the team. He brings in a lot of energy and we want him to continue the same way.”
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