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New Zealand v India 2020: Pant or Saha in the Wellington Test?

Rishabh Pant kept the wickets and scored a quick 70 in the warmup game against NewZealand XI
Rishabh Pant kept the wickets and scored a quick 70 in the warmup game against NewZealand XI
Sushil Sali
ANALYST
Modified 17 Feb 2020, 16:26 IST
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The much-awaited leg of the India-NZ tour, the Test series will begin in less than 5 days at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. The series is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the Indian team in the World Test Championship. India has more or less a settled core, but they have a couple of key decisions to make before the first Test begins on the 21st of February.

First, the dilemma is of playing R.Ashwin or Jadeja in the playing XI. Second, Rishabh Pant or Wriddhiman Saha?

In the warm-up game against New Zealand XI, both Pant and Saha kept the wickets at different junctures of the game and both were made to bat top of the order in the 2nd innings on the 3rd and final day of the game. Pant scored a quickfire 70, making a strong case for himself to be the first-choice keeper.

By the way that both the players were assessed in the warm-up game, it is clear that Virat Kohli and the Indian management still aren’t sure about the first-choice keeper and might take into account the performances of these players in the net sessions and the practice game.

Also see – PSL points table

Irrespective of the practice match, India cannot overlook the fact that it needs a more than a capable batsman at number 7 in these testing conditions and India’s batting has always been a concern overseas with its bowling being the most potent attack in the world. In India, the batsmen are way too good and there is never a need for the lower order to break a sweat. His career average is around 30 and no hundreds have come in difficult conditions.

On the other hand, India needs a good wicket-keeper batsman abroad in the lower order who can hold onto the innings under a collapse or come play a quickfire cameo during closing in of innings. To Rishab Pant’s credit, he has two overseas 100 to name (one in England and Australia), a feat achieved by no other Indian wicketkeeper-batsman.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that Saha is a better wicketkeeper with great experience under his belt. Catches are crucial in Test matches and India very well knows its importance. Ishant Sharma had dropped Brendon McCullum on India's last tour to New Zealnd, costing india the whole series.

To Pant's credit, he holds the record of the most dismissals (11) by a wicket-keeper in a Test that he achieved during the first Test between India and Australia at the Adelaide Oval during the 2018 Border-Gavaskar series. He is also the fastest Indian to reach 50 dismissals (11 Tests). MS Dhoni is the second fastest, achieving the feat in 15. All these statistics only mean that Pant is more than well-equipped to do his job in the pacy conditions and should probably get a go in this series.

Additionally, Saha is 35 and coming at a fag end of his career. So it would be interesting to see if India looks to strengthen the batting or go with seasoned player in Saha.

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Also read | India vs South Africa 2019: Ravi Shastri calls Wriddhiman Saha the best 'keeper in the world'; explains why he was selected over Rishabh Pant

Published 16 Feb 2020, 11:02 IST
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