Sanjay Manjrekar: India would rather have Rishabh Pant taking catches than talking

Updated: Dec 15, 2018, 12:14 IST | Harit N Joshi

India batsman-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar has some advice for young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant: stay quiet if it helps you focus better

Australia's Tim Paine plays a shot as India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant looks on during Day One of the second Test in Perth yesterday. Pic/AFP
Australia's Tim Paine plays a shot as India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant looks on during Day One of the second Test in Perth yesterday. Pic/AFP

INDIA’S young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant’s chatter/banter has attracted eyes and ears in this edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.  Pant’s ‘encouragement’ to India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin as well as Australia’s tailend batsman Pat Cummins was amusing to some and annoying to others in Adelaide. His utterances could be heard clearly when the host broadcaster [Seven Network and Fox Sports] decided to turn on the stump microphone for one over with no commentary on.

Pant was his usual talkative self on Day One of the second Test at Perth yesterday, something that didn’t escape the attention of India batsman-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar.

Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar

The former India batsman, who is a commentator for Sony Pictures Network, talks to mid-day about the pitch at the ongoing second Test at Perth’s new stadium, the four pace bowlers combination and India’s scope of winning their maiden Test series in Australia after the historic triumph in Adelaide.
Excerpts:

Is the pitch at Perth’s Optus Stadium similar to the WACA?
Not quite. You got to change with the modern demands. You have these high stands on all sides. So, the wind factor at Perth, which is the other major factor along with pace and bounce, that’s gone out of the game. Yes, it is not ideal, but it is still Perth and it has got some traits of the old Perth.

You played at the WACA in the 1991-92 tour. Can you recall the bounce you faced and the one at the new stadium?
Today’s pitch has been a strange one. It cannot be called like the old WACA. I have never seen a pitch like this. When it started off with the new ball, nothing happened. In the second session, the pace and bounce came in. There was more carry to the ’keeper. In the third session, we saw lateral movement with the second new ball. So, it was most difficult to play in the third session. When we played at the WACA, there wasn’t as much grass on the pitch because the soil was so hard and it was so bouncy that the grass cover was not needed. Once you were set at the WACA, batting was really enjoyable there.

Will this pitch deteriorate or ease up as the play progresses?
It has been a bipolar pitch, like people with bipolar vision. This pitch has been something like that. Michael Hussey was telling me that there is no chance of this pitch improving because under the grass cover there are cracks. When the ball hits that area, we see the ball flying high or keeping low. If you look at it from that standpoint, Australia have really got a good score. Batting first has been a blessing. It’s been a very difficult pitch to understand. It changed character every session and the Indian bowlers had to quickly find a way to adapt accordingly.

Do you think India should have played a spinner?
India should have played one spinner. There has to be a dire need to play a fourth seamer. Going by that logic, India should have used their second best spinner Ravindra Jadeja. India’s style has been to play with three seamers and one spinner. Like the West Indies of the old, they would play three seamers even on Indian pitches. They didn’t go with four spinners suddenly. So, India should resist this temptation of playing four seamers. It has never been our style. And I think Australia doesn’t play spin that well. Jadeja through the rough to left-handers... the roughs these days are deciding the fate of a Test match. So, I would have gone with Jadeja.

Was Virat Kohli’s captaincy a bit defensive when Australian openers Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch got going?
Virat is interesting. I don’t mind the fielder that he has behind. He rarely has a fielder deep at the expense of a catching person. There are always enough people in catching positions. He has a boundary rider to stop the runs. It’s a ploy that works quite well with modern-day batsmen where they hit a loose ball for one run. There is a tendency to get frustrated. In Perth, you have to be careful to not attack too much. It is also the fastest scoring venue. You get wickets on it, but runs also come very quickly.

What are the areas that India need to guard against to claim their maiden Test series victory in Australia?
One thing is fatigue because you can see that coming into play today. They had a long work out in the second innings at Adelaide and in three days time, they were bowling again. That is something that they have to be careful about and ensure they are well rested. The other problem is when five or six wickets are down, there is a tendency among one or two bowlers to get a little complacent. The intensity or the desperation to get the [remaining] wickets which is there [early on] is not very visible.
“Especially, when you watch Mohammed Shami... when he is bowling to the first four or five batsmen and the way he bowls to the No. 8, 9 and 10. I think the intensity dies down a little bit. That is something that he needs to guard against.

This series will be decided by which of the two weak batting units bat better. Both teams have one major weakness [batting]. So, it is not so much about bowling. It is all about how well they bat because both teams have a fragile batting unit.

Rishabh Pant’s banter is as much in focus as his wicketkeeping. How do you view it?
This [chatter/banter] happens often. It happens at all levels. Only thing is, these days the broadcasters are not only getting the volume of the stump microphone up. Here, the host broadcaster [Seven Network and Fox Sports] has gone a step further and they actually don’t put any commentary for one over. You can only hear the chatter. In cricket, there has been a tradition... in all team meetings, the wicketkeeper is told to keep encouraging the bowler. The moment he dropped the catch of Shaun Marsh off Hanuma Vihari, suddenly he went quiet for two-three overs. That is when he has to be careful. If being quiet is going to help him focus better, then the Indian team would rather have him taking catches than looking to encourage the bowlers all the time or all that banter that goes around.

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