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India vs Australia: Explosive Rishabh Pant or Skillful Wriddhiman Saha - Who Will be India's Choice

A flamboyant, often unpredictable but on his day a potential match-changer - Pant or the highly skilled and amongst the best in the world behind the stumps - Wriddhiman Saha?

India vs Australia: Explosive Rishabh Pant or Skillful Wriddhiman Saha - Who Will be India's Choice

If Rishabh Pant hadn’t scored a breathtaking unbeaten 103 off just 73 deliveries including 9 fours and 6 sixes at a strike rate of 141.1 facing the Pink Ball against Australia A in the Day and Night Tour Match at the SCG, there would have been no need to write this piece. But apart from the sheer runs he scored, the rate at which he scored them and the sheer audacity of some of the shot-making has again opened up the debate. Who should be India’s wicket-keeper in Adelaide in the series opener which gets underway from the 17th of December? A flamboyant, often unpredictable but on his day a potential match-changer – Pant or the highly skilled and amongst the best in the world behind the stumps – Wriddhiman Saha?

India vs Australia A Live Score, Pink-ball IND vs AUS A Practice Match, Day 3 at Sydney

THE CASE FOR SAHA

The Indian management has still not given any real indication on who they prefer as their first choice wicket-keeper for Adelaide. While Saha was in the XI in the three-day match at the Drummoyne Oval scoring a patient unbeaten 54 in the second innings, he registered a duck in the other two innings he batted in the two tour matches in Sydney.

Saha was left out of the XI, rather shockingly, from the two Tests in New Zealand after having a great series behind the stumps at home against Bangladesh. Saha is widely recognized as not only the best wicket-keeper in Test cricket in India but is also amongst the most highly-rated in the world. His agility as a wicket-keeper, skills against fast bowling on fast and bouncy Australian wickets, ability to convert half chances into dismissals and catching behind the stumps gives him a huge advantage over Pant.

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But where he may lack a bit is his batting. Although he was brilliant for Sunrisers Hyderabad in his brief outing for them in the latter half of the IPL 2020, his numbers in Test cricket are on the decline. Saha last registered a Test hundred – 117 against Australia in Ranchi in March, 2017. Since then, he has scored just 256 runs in 14 innings at an average of 23.27 with just one fifty. Saha has also not made a significant contribution with the bat in his 6 innings in Australia – he has an aggregate of 111 runs and an average of 18.5 with a highest score of 35 Down Under.

THE CASE FOR PANT

Pant can do for India, or at least this is what the expectation is, what the great Adam Gilchrist did for Australia in the lower middle-order – change matches in the course of a session scoring big at a rapid rate demoralizing the opposition bowlers. This also helps in creating time for the Indian bowlers to bowl out the opposition twice. There is no doubting Pant’s prodigious talent with the bat. He has already given examples of his prowess in Test cricket too – and not only in India but in trying conditions in England and Australia. Pant hit a smashing 114 off 146 deliveries at The Oval in 2018 before hammering an unbeaten 159 off just 189 deliveries at the SCG in January, 2019. He was India’s first choice keeper on their last tour to Australia in 2018-19 and made substantial contributions with the bat in the first three Test matches too.

Although he was not at his destructive best in the IPL 2020, he has done enough in his international and domestic career – a reminder of which was again given in the tour match against Australia A at the SCG – of what he can do with the bat.

Pant’s weakness has been his wicket-keeping. Although he has vastly improved in the last couple of years, there is a fear that he may drop a big catch of a Steven Smith or someone which may cost India the Test match. There are questions also over his ability to keep against the fast Indian pace attack and stand up to Ashwin on the bouncy Australian wickets.

ANSWER LIES IN TEAM COMBINATION

The answer for the Indian think-tank lies largely in their team combination for Adelaide. If they decide to play Hanuma Vihari at number 6, then there is no need to have Pant at number 7. In such a scenario, Saha, in all likelihood will make the XI. However, if India decides to be aggressive and play 5 specialist bowlers then we may see Pant at number 6 to give the batting a boost, especially if the fifth bowler is Kuldeep Yadav and not Ravindra Jadeja.

Who will India choose? Pant – the explosive batsman or Saha the ‘Best’ Wicket-keeper. We will find out in a few days.



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3 New Zealand 3716 116
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