Pant’s Sydney slip-ups highlight India’s keeping dilemma

Rishabh Pant dropped two catches in the third Test against Australia on Thursday, giving further ammunition to detractors who say he should be dropped as India’s Test wicketkeeper in favour of Wriddhiman Saha.

Since Pant’s Test debut in 2018, India have faced the dilemma whether to pick 36-year-old Saha, considered technically the best glovesman in India, or Pant who is far more flamboyant with the bat.

Pant’s keeping has been under constant scrutiny and the stumper dropped Australia’s debutant opener Will Pucovski twice on the rain-hit opening day of the third Test to renew that debate.

Pucovski was on 26 when he edged Ravichandran Ashwin but Pant, standing up to the off-spinner, spilled the catch.

The opener had added another six runs to his tally when he gloved a short delivery from Mohammed Siraj and Pant scurried back and leapt but could not complete the catch.

Saha kept wickets in the first Test in Adelaide but Pant replaced him in Melbourne and has retained his place in Sydney.

Pant averages 0.86 dropped catches per Test played since 2018, which is worst among all the keepers who have played 10 matches in that time, according to CricViz, which specialises in cricket data analysis.

Pant’s catch success percentage against spin (56%) is significantly lower than against pace (93%), it said.

The wicketkeeper was trolled on social media after his slip-ups but team mate Siraj offered words of consolation.

“It’s part of the game, we all drop catches,” Siraj said.

“Bowlers do get a little frustrated when catches are dropped but you can’t help it.”

Former India stumper Parthiv Patel detected a flaw in Pant’s technique against spinners.

“He was trying to catch with hard hands,” Patel, who played 25 Tests and 38 ODIs between 2002-2018, told Cricbuzz.

“On a difficult track like this, you have to try and catch with soft hands. Also, your fingers should point downwards, and not forward,” Patel added.

Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting, who had earlier called for Pant’s inclusion in the Indian team, was disappointed by the wicket-keeper batsman’s glovework.

“The one’s (dropped catches) today are two that should be taken, simple as that. It’s probably lucky for Rishabh that Pucovski didn’t go on and make a big hundred or a double hundred and looking at the wicket, it looks like an unbelievable surface,” quoted Ponting as saying.

“I’m sure when Rishabh put those catches down, he would have thought the worst and ‘here we go, he’s really going to make me pay’ but (Pucovski) didn’t today,” he added.

Pant was on the receiving end of flak from his Delhi Capitals head coach. Ponting said since Pant’s debut he has dropped more catches than any other wicket-keeper in the world.

“I’ve said it all along, the knock-on Rishabh is always going to be on his keeping. Since his debut in Test cricket, he’s dropped more catches than any other keeper in the world. That highlights he has got some work to do with his keeping,” said Ponting.

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