Wriddhiman Saha’s far superior glovework may be given preference over Rishabh Pant’s blazing blade in India’s opening day/night Test against Australia, starting at the Adelaide Oval from Thursday.
One of the most hotly debated topics going into the first Test has been the Indian team’s probable playing XI, with the jury still out on whether the better keeper in 36-year-old Saha pips the better batsman that the 23-year-old Pant is.
The Indian team management has kept its cards close to its chest with Hanuma Vihari terming it a “healthy competition” that augurs well for the side.
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There is a school of thought in the team that Saha’s superior glovework and also safe batting should be valued more at this point of time.
Coach Ravi Shastri, captain Virat Kohli, assistant coaches Vikram Rathour, Bharat Arun and travelling selector Harvinder Singh will be assessing both Pant and Saha’s performance based on their individual contributions in match situations.
Saha’s 54 came when India could have lost the game and he bailed the team out while facing a top-quality attack. The score read 143 for nine and the team could have lost to Australia A, but he guided a young Kartik Tyagi, scored his runs and saved the game.
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The attack that Saha faced had James Pattinson, Michael Neser and Cameron Green, which was international standard.
Compared to that, Pant came after India had already taken control of the pink ball dress rehearsal with leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and part-timer Nick Maddinson in operation.
All the hard work was done by Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari before Pant joined the proceedings.
In fact, the home team bowlers had given up the fight midway through his innings, something that invited harsh criticism from former World Cup-winning captain Allan Border, who termed the bowling an “absolute disgrace” while wearing an Australia A jersey.
Saha averages 30 plus in 37 Tests with 1238 runs and three hundreds in his kitty. Besides, he has 103 dismissals behind the stumps, including 92 catches and 11 stumpings.
Still, even if Saha goes on to play the first Test, it wouldn’t mean that Pant would be out of equation as the Bengal stumper would need to perform decently with the bat to keep his younger competitor out of reckoning for a place in the first XI.