By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Rishabh Pant’s match-saving and match-winning performances against Australia in the Sydney and Brisbane Tests may force the Indian team management to discard their old plan of playing Wriddhiman Saha at home and Pant outside Asia.
Although the team management is yet to finalise the eleven, the Indian team that faces England in the first Test from February 5 may feature Pant and not Saha, considering that India are likely to play five bowlers.
With Kohli likely to be back at No. 4 and Ajinkya Rahane at No. 5, Pant will most probably bat at No. 6 followed by a couple of bowling all-rounders like R Ashwin/Washington Sundar/Axar Patel.
Up until now, Pant’s weak wicket-keeping skills were the reason why he wasn’t played in Tests in India. He has played just two of his 16 Tests in India and they came well over two years ago.
India also have an option of playing both. But for the sake of balance — playing two wicket-keepers may reduce India’s bowling options as Saha will walk in at No. 7 — India may play Pant in what will be his first Test in India since October, 2018.
Though it is considered risky to not play a conventional wicket-keeper on Indian pitches, former India stumper Kiran More said that Pant will come good as Indian tracks offer a lot of chances to dismiss batsmen.
“Rishabh will do a good job. He will make a few mistakes, no doubt. He is 23. You are comparing a 23-year-old with a 36-year-old. Saha has more experience, he has less. When Rishabh learns with experience he will become top wicketkeeper-batsman,” More told IANS.
More said that keeping in India demands total concentration and that is why it can get easier to keep wickets here.
“I think he (Rishabh) will enjoy keeping wickets [in India] more. It is challenging, but on pitches supporting turn I always enjoyed keeping wickets. You are always in the game. You get a lot of opportunities also. You might miss a couple but you will always get chances whereas on flatter wickets, it is very difficult to keep wickets because hardly any ball comes to you. As far as your concentration is concerned, you are always on the ball,” added More.
Indian or sub-continent wickets being good for wicket-keeping is something that England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler also discussed while speaking to Indian media.
“It is a challenge, but it is also a great place to keep wickets because you are always in the game. There are quick, reactive chances. I certainly enjoyed it in Sri Lanka. I think wicket-keeping in spinning conditions is a lot of fun,” Buttler said.
On Sunday, England’s reserve wicket-keeper Ben Foakes said choosing between a specialist wicket-keeper Saha or batsman-wicketkeeper Pant will depend on the balance.
“You need to have a blend of both. I think it depends on the batting line-up. If you have a batting line-up that is scoring 600 runs every time then you go for specialist wicket-keeper. If you want a frontline batsmen then you go for a batting wicket-keeper,” he told media.
It looks like both India and England may go for batting wicket-keepers with specialists Foakes and Saha warming the bench at least in the first Test.