MS Dhoni, India's World Cup-winning captain, will continue to inspire young wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant from behind the stumps when India host Australia for two T20 Internationals and five One-day Internationals, starting February 24 in Visakhapatnam. In a recent four-match Test series in Australia, Rishabh Pant grabbed everyone's attention with impressive wicket-keeping in the absence of MS Dhoni, who retired from the longest format in 2014. While Pant credited former India wicketkeeper-batsman Kiran More for his recent success, the 56-year-old revealed how MS Dhoni's "success formula" worked for Pant.
"Rishabh had a more sideways movement and I suggested a bit more open chested stance. It helps in balance and keeping a still head, something that is key to MS Dhoni's success," More said.
About the positioning of hands, he said, "I advised a very minor change like pointing the finger towards ground rather than the bowler. It helps one avoid injuries and success in taking catches goes up."
A slight tweak in hand positioning and body posture was all that it took for Pant to turn the tables after a tough stint behind the stumps in England and the fast-rising Indian wicketkeeper-batsman credits More for making it happen.
He faced sharp criticism for his wicket-keeping skills in adverse English conditions but Pant more than made up for it in Australia.
In England, where the red Dukes was seaming all around, a lot of byes were recorded against Pant's name, many of them due to the ball moving in the air even after leaving the stumps. However, things changed in Australia, where he pulled off 20 catches with a world record-equalling 11 scalps in Adelaide.
"Keeping in England was an altogether different experience. After that, I worked with Kiran sir at the NCA on a few specific areas. It included hand-positioning and body posture. Every keeper has distinct movement and I tweaked it a little and it worked," Pant said.
For Pant, the endeavour is to improve everyday and working on his glovework is a part of that process.
"When you make it to the team at a young age, the more you are keen to learn, the better you get at utilising the opportunities that come your way," the 21 year old said.
The turning point for him was certainly the hundred at the Oval which gave him confidence and it's effect showed in Australia where he was phenomenal both behind as well as in front of the stumps.
"When I got that hundred in England, the confidence rose to a different level. From there, I started constantly thinking that how can I improve in certain areas. The process of learning that started in England paid off in Australia," said the heir apparent of Dhoni.
The 'devil-may-care' approach to batting has been his calling card and he asserts that the high stakes IPL games, where he plays for Delhi Capitals, and for India, have not bogged him down.
But isn't there and insecurity that this approach may let him down when stakes are very high?
"Insecurities will always be there whether you play for India or for your franchise in IPL. But how do you beat those insecurities and perform, defines you as a player."
"Stakes will always be high for India or Delhi Capitals, so if you let insecurities come in your way, it will be very difficult to focus on the job. One needs that balance to treat every game as same," said Pant.
Having scored 684 runs in the last IPL season for Delhi (erstwhile Daredevils), Pant obviously wants a repeat and would prefer batting at the top of the order for the Capitals.
(With PTI inputs)