After days of confusion and speculation, the Indian cricket team announced their playing XI for the 1st Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The 4-Test series begins on December 17 with a pink-ball game at the Adelaide Oval.
Prithvi Shaw and Wriddhiman Saha made the Indian playing XI ahead of Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant respectively. The inclusion of the 36-year-old Saha raised more than a few eyebrows, with various experts backing the young southpaw to don the gloves in the Test series.
Here are 3 reasons why the Indian cricket team should've picked Rishabh Pant for the 1st Test against Australia.
#3 Rishabh Pant's performance on his last tour of Australia
Rishabh Pant was India's second-highest run-scorer in the previous edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy inn 2018-19. The young keeper aggregated 350 runs at an average of 58.33 and a high score of 159, and was behind only Cheteshwar Pujara on the batting charts.
Pant also snaffled 20 catches behind the stumps, and equalled the record of the most catches taken in a Test by an Indian keeper. Moreover, the chirpy gloveman engaged in some funny banter with members of the Aussie squad, even appearing to get in their head at times.
Pant's century against Australia in the SCG Test of the 2018-19 series made him the only wicket-keeper to have registered an ton Down Under. He also became only the second keeper in the history of the game to record overseas tons in England and Australia.
Pant would've certainly taken confidence from his previous performances in Australia had he been named in the playing XI, and his exclusion is made even stranger by Saha's record. In 3 Tests in the country, the Bengal-born player has managed only 111 runs at an average below 19 and a best score of 35.
#2 Rishabh Pant adds a unique element to the Indian middle order
India have a number of solid middle-order batsmen in Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari. While these three players have airtight defences and patience, they aren't exactly natural stroke-makers.
Rishabh Pant, with his ability to clear the boundary at will and skill to switch gears in an instant, would've added an extra dimension to the Indian middle order. Saha isn't of the same mould as Pant, and is known to be a defence-first batsman in Test cricket.
This issue might become more problematic when Virat Kohli leaves for home after the 1st Test, as India will be faced with a number of sedate batsmen in the middle order who might not be able to take the attack to the opposition.
Rishabh Pant is also a southpaw, and would've been the only left-hander in the playing XI had he been included. The 23-year-old could've made the most of the inevitable loose deliveries he would've received.
#1 Rishabh Pant's performance in the pink-ball warm-up game
As mentioned above, Rishabh Pant can clear the boundary at will and shift gears in an instant. This was never more evident than in the pink-ball warm-up game against Australia A.
After missing out on the first practice match due to a sore neck, the dynamic batsman fell cheaply in the first innings thanks to a dodgy LBW decision that seemed to be pitching outside leg. He came out to bat with a lot of pressure on him to perform in the second innings, and he didn't disappoint.
Rishabh Pant started off at a moderate pace, but unleashed himself upon the Aussie spinners in Nic Maddinson and Mitchell Swepson. Playing an array of slog-sweeps and hoicks across the line, he raced away to a fifty. In the last over of the day's play bowled by Jack Wildermuth, Pant needed 19 runs to reach his century.
What followed was astonishing, as shots all around the ground ensured that he recorded a ton off just 73 balls. The over read 4, 4, 6, 4, 4. Apart from his batting, Pant also took a few tidy catches and didn't do much wrong behind the stumps.
The innings signalled Rishabh Pant's return to form after an indifferent Indian Premier League season and sparse appearances for the national team earlier in the year. He would've taken great confidence from the knock, and India should've backed the youngster to replicate the same in the Test series.
Rishabh Pant would've been (and definitely still is) hungry to perform and show his worth to the national selectors, not to mention that he is 13 years younger than Saha. It remains to be seen if the Delhi-born left-hander gets opportunities in the 4-Test series.
Published 16 Dec 2020, 17:30 IST