India vs England Test series: I’ve enjoyed my preparation for red-ball cricket: Rishabh Pant

 

Uncapped batsman Rishabh Pant believes the exposure he has had for India A over a month in England has shaped him up well for the forthcoming five-Test series between India and England, and that being part of a team coached by Rahul Dravid was a big plus.

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Pant was last week named as the second wicketkeeper in India’s 18-man squad for the Test series starting August 1, following a successful run with India A. The 20-year-old has delivered on tour, chiefly in the tri-series final which India A won, and then with a counter-attacking 67* off 71 balls to help script an eye-catching comeback win against West Indies A in a four-day match. Pant’s keeping has been tidy (he has 17 dismissals on tour) and most recently he hit 58 and 61 in defeat to England Lions.

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“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,” said Pant in an interview to bcci.tv.  “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.”

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Pant’s success on tour came after a strong IPL, in which he scored 684 runs in 14 matches at an average of 52.61 and strike-rate of 173.60 for Delhi Daredevils. In his estimation, the approach to formats was not radically different.

“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,” said Pant. “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 realised that the swing will come a lot into play in these conditions.

Reflecting on his tour of England with India A, under the tutelage of coach Dravid, Pant said: “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.”

The upcoming Tests will be Pant’s fourth stint with the national team, following T20I opportunities at home and in the West Indies in 2017 and in Sri Lanka earlier this year.

“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,” he said. “And, like always, whenever I needed any support from Mahi bhai [MS Dhoni], I used to ask him. From my IPL contract to my wicketkeeping, he’s advised me on everything.

“He’s always told me that when it comes to wicketkeeping, 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.”