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Kohli backs 'best in the world' Saha as India leave out Pant

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475   //    01 Oct 2019, 19:50 IST

India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha
India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha

Virat Kohli has given his backing to returning wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha after India opted to leave out Rishabh Pant for the first Test against South Africa.

Saha has not played Test cricket since January 2018 due to a series of injuries - notably a serious shoulder problem - and Pant earned a regular role in his place, starting with the tour of England last year.

But, on the eve of the series with South Africa, India have recalled the 34-year-old, meaning Pant - to the surprise of many – is dropped from the XI.

Captain Kohli appeared to suggest it was a straightforward call, though, describing Saha as "the best keeper in the world".

"Saha is fit and fine to go," Kohli told a news conference. "He's going to start for us in this series and his keeping credentials are there for everyone to see.

"He's played well for us whenever he's got a chance, with the bat also, and it was unfortunate that he was out for such a long period because of an injury.

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"For me, he's the best keeper in the world, so in these conditions, with what he's done in the past, he starts for us."

Kohli revealed Saha had almost come into the side for the previous Test series against West Indies, but India decided to stay patient and stick with Pant in the short term.

"Saha was almost going to start [that series in the Caribbean], but we felt it was better to let him ease back into things, rather than forcing him again into starting immediately," Kohli said.

"We all felt that he'd just come back and, although he was keeping well and batting well, it was fair to give Rishabh a few more opportunities because of what he's done in the past season for us.

"But Saha was always going to be someone who we would back as a pure keeper in Test cricket. He has done well under pressure situation also in the past for us.

"It was just about finding the right opportunity and moment to bring him back in."

India had already confirmed Rohit Sharma will open the batting against the Proteas, while Ravichandran Ashwin comes back into the team for the game in Visakhapatnam.

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