English conditions a fascinating test for Rishabh Pant the wicketkeeper

A tremor of laughter erupted around Trent Bridge as Rishabh Pant charged Adil Rashid to deposit the second ball he faced in Test cricket high into the Pavilion on the first day of the Trent Bridge Test. With a six as his first scoring shot Pant had announced his arrival in Test cricket. In one stroke, he had autographed his style of play - a bold brush, bristling with energy and aggression. As a batsman, Pant will always remain that.

What about his second skill, the other half of his job - wicketkeeping? It will be fair to say Pant did not come out as unfinished a glovesman as many feared he might. He held seven catches - a joint record for a debutant - and generally looked competent.

Wicketkeeping in England is one of the most difficult jobs in cricket. The Dukes ball wobbles in the air as the keeper attempts to line it up. Another common sight on English pitches is the ball dying as it reaches the keeper. Consequently, wicketkeepers endlessly mark their spot behind the stumps, and each time they think the distance is perfect they are flattered to be deceived.

Then there is the challenge of the ball swinging late, well after it has passed the batsman, leaving the keeper wrong-footed and having to adjust hurriedly.

Suffice to say then that Pant, only 20 years old, would have been nervous keeping wickets in his debut Test, which India had to win to keep the series alive. He would commit some mistakes, none bigger than dropping Jos Buttler in England's second innings, when Jasprit Bumrah's unusual angle made him take a couple of steps to his left, only for the outside edge to force him to dive a long way in the opposite direction. Pant managed to get a sliver of his outstretched glove to the ball, but not enough of it to pouch the ball. Buttler was on 1 at the time, and he went on to make a century that did not deny India victory but delayed it substantially.

Pant cannot be blamed entirely, though, for Bumrah's release - from wide of the crease, with his arm going well beyond the vertical - can be as difficult for keepers to get used to as it is for batsmen.

"When Bumrah bowls he bowls with a different angle," Pant said after India's victory. "Sometimes you react to it. That day I reacted too much on that ball and the edge came off. I am not saying that it was a too difficult catch. I could have pulled it off."

Despite being on debut, the conditions were not entirely alien to Pant. He arrived in England in early June as part of the India A squad for limited-overs and first-class matches against the England Lions and West Indies A. The wobbling ball was an immediate challenge, which he tried to sort out in training, working initially with the India A coaches and then with Dinesh Karthik, who played the first two Tests, and India fielding coach R Sridhar.

James Foster, the former England wicketkeeper, one of the most experienced and talented glovesmen around, says the wobbling ball can be a "shock to the system" of overseas wicketkeepers. Foster says it is not just the bowlers, but even the design of venues like Lord's and Trent Bridge, that can cause ball to wobble. If the issue is not addressed correctly, it can mentally destabilise the wicketkeeper.

"It is the fact the ball will come to you and suddenly wobble," Foster tells ESPNcricinfo. "It can be very tricky. Generally the ball does not wobble after it is nicked, but it has happened to me. Dealing with the wobble can affect you because as result you might get tense as a wicketkeeper because you are not sure how the ball is actually coming to you - in an arc or in a straight line. That can potentially have knock-on effects on how you keep for the rest of the innings or the day."

Late on the fourth afternoon Pant was rapped on the left hand when the second new ball zipped at a faster speed than he expected from Mohammed Shami. Pant was just getting into position and failed to collect cleanly, wincing as he folded his gloved left hand behind his back.

Foster, who plays for Essex, says the best way to confront the wobble is not to be "tense in your top half" - your mind. Foster likes to collect the ball waist-high, but that does mean he recommends it to everyone. He says the bounce can also be inconsistent in England.

"If the conditions are not good it does not bounce consistently through to you. In Australia the ball will continually be coming through. In England it can die quite a lot. Keeping to a wobbling ball, my advise is trust your eyes and trust your hands."

Some keepers feel minimal footwork can be key to succeeding in England as a wicketkeeper. Deep Dasgupta, the former India keeper and opening batsman, noticed that Pant wasn't moving too much while getting ready to collect the ball against the fast bowlers.

"In places like England and to an extent South Africa it is very important to have good hands and less footwork because the ball keeps moving even after it has crossed the wicket," Dasgupta tells ESPNcricinfo. "So the idea is to use your hands as much as possible and move less with your feet. I saw a lot of that in Rishabh."

If the wicketkeeper is moving, Dasgupta said, it doesn't just affect how he collects the ball but could also cause him to misjudge the line, as Pant did when he dropped Buttler. "He started moving too early and that is the reason he dropped Buttler."

According to Dasgupta Pant should not be concerned if his feet are moving less, because in overcast conditions in England, the ball can move suddenly, "inches" in front of you. "The best thing you can do is not move, have a good strong base, and watch the ball till the end."

While analysing Pant's wicketkeeping, the host broadcaster showed examples of past keepers like England's Matt Prior, who would move to his right to collect the ball on the inside, but Dasgupta argues against advising youngsters such as Pant to adopt such a technique. On the contrary, he suggested footwork, for a keeper, can be "overrated" in England.

"You need to move, but you don't need to move a lot," he says. "Just half a step on your right and you cover the first slip. Anything which is edged you dive. So even if you are just standing static and the batsman edges and half a step or half a dive and you cover first slip. It is not that you are going to try and catch in front of second slip. So why do you really need to move?"

According to Dasgupta, what Pant did most times while Bumrah was bowling was move to his left. That is an instinctive reaction to a bowler who slants the ball in a long way.

"Instinctively what a wicketkeeper does, if it is anywhere near the middle and off stump, you try and move to your left to cover the angle. That is the challenge for everyone, especially against inswing bowlers, because you are thinking the ball is going down the leg side and then you tend to move too early. All I will suggest is, don't move till the ball has passed the bat. And once the ball has passed the bat, in England with the carry, take half a step on your right or left and you can gather the ball."

Another point Dasgupta makes is that keeping, like batting, is about the "percentages", and that glovesmen need to work out which edge to focus on. "Don't worry about inside edges," he says. "Inside edges you will react, but 98 out of 100 it is outside edges you will catch irrespective of whether it is an outswing or inswing bowler. Set yourself up for the outside edge."

Pant has already figured that out, it seems. "As a keeper you have to wait for the outside edge. That is the only thing I can do. And that is what I have learned: I am going to wait for the outside edge. That is the only solution."

And what about that six? "I was nervous. But when I see the ball I don't think much. I just see the ball and react to it."