R Sridhar recalls training Pant for his wicketkeeping skills


India’s young keeper batter, Rishabh Pant is now an inseparable part of the Indian team. While he is still recovering, he is still the best keeper for India.

But, it was not so when Pant had just come into the Indian squad. He was a fine batter no doubt, but his keeping skills were questionable.

He was continuously playing second fiddle to Wriddhiman Saha who was then the preferred keeper for India in Tests.

Which is why Pant wanted to improve his keeping skills and during that time and fielding coach, R Sridhar stepped in.

Pant was facing collection problems when practicing with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja during India’s home Tests.

During the 2018 tour of England, Pant made his debut and was immediately put into the team for the injured Saha.

But, when Saha returned, Pant was shown the door because Saha’s keeping skills were much better.

It was during this time that Sridhar decided to help Pant shape up his keeping skills and make him a better wicketkeeper.

India’s ex-fielding coach recalls that while the decision to do so paid off, it was not easy at the beginning.

Sridhar reveals how Pant’s stubbornness irritated him

In his book, ‘Coaching Beyond’, Sridhar reveals that Pant’s constant questioning and his stubbornness caused him much anger and frustration. But, he decided to nevertheless keep helping him.

There were some inputs he was little reluctant to take. Because he trusted the game that had brought him to this level. Sometimes, I must confess, it drove me nuts, his stubbornness. But getting angry or frustrated wasn’t going to help anyone. I had to find a way to get Rishabh to try and do different things, if only for him to figure out if those changes might actually be beneficial to his keeping.

Pant was recalled back in the Indian Test squad after he played Saha’s second fiddle in the Test series against New Zealand last year.

Adding further, Sridhar says,

We spent a lot of time together at practice, often just him and me and I decided it was time for a little tough love. I stopped giving suggestions and inputs and would ignore his quizzical looks when the ball burst through his hands or he fumbled with his collection. Rishabh has the smarts so it didn’t take him long to work out something wasn’t quite right.

Writing further, Sridhar says,

After a while he walked up to me and said, ‘Sir, you aren’t saying anything. Please tell me what to do.’ Smiling inwardly, I said, ‘Maybe you should lead with your head and not with your hands.’ Satisfied at having got me to shed my silence, he did precisely that. As the head led the way, so did the body and he was more assured in collecting the ball.

Pant improves immensely after Sridhar’s magical advice

After this conversation, Pant did not look back and continued to follow Sridhar’s advice. This led him to become India’s preferred wicketkeeper in Tests.

Although Ponting questioned Pant’s keeping skills during the 2020-21 series against Australia, he did not pay much attention to it.

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