Former Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar has weighed in on the debate that has engulfed the Indian cricket folklore in the lead-up to the first Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval. And, that debate is centered around who among Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant should keep wickets for the visitors during the four-match series.
Both the wicketkeepers made a good case for themselves in the recently-concluded two warm-up games. While Saha scored a match-saving half-century in the second innings of the first match, Rishabh Pant turned heads when he smashed a whirlwind 73-ball 103 in the pink-ball warm-up game against Australia A.
Sunil Gavaskar expects the team-management and the tour-selection committee to have a good headache while deciding the first-choice wicketkeeper but he reckons that given the fact that Rishabh Pant had a great outing in the last series in Australia, the selectors and the think-tank might pick him ahead of the experienced Saha.
“It is going to be a tough one for the tour selection committee because Rishabh played in all the four Test matches two years ago and he also scored a hundred and he seemed to have got under the skin of some of the Aussie players with his chirping from behind the stumps. So I guess the team will probably look to have him,” Sunil Gavaskar said during a virtual interaction with the media.
“And of course, when you have come off a hundred a few days earlier, you would be the choice of the management,”
‘I am hoping that he plays at No. 6’- Sunil Gavaskar on Rishabh Pant
When asked about the fact that Wriddhiman Saha is a better wicketkeeper than Rishabh Pant, Sunil Gavaskar said that India should go with Pant given the fact that on fast and bouncy pitches of Australia, a keeper tends to have more time to react to the ball as compared to the sub-continent where the ball turns, grips and stays low, where Saha would be an obvious choice.
He also added that considering India’s top-order is a bit shaky, the addition of Rishabh Pant will bolster the batting line-up. He, however, added that he is hoping that the southpaw plays at No.6 as that will allow the visitors to play five specialist bowlers.
”When you are playing on pitches where the wicketkeeper has to stand up to the stumps, where the ball turns around, that is when you tend to take your best wicketkeeper and in which case, Wriddhiman Saha would be the obvious choice. But here, India would be having pacers and you can stand behind and you get really more time to go for the catch. You get that much time 15 yards behind the stumps. My feeling is that they would go for him (Pant),” he said.
“Also because at the top of the order India is a little bit shaky. They don’t know who they have to go with at the top. Mayank Agarwal is a certainty, but who are they going to send to open with him. Are they going to open with Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw? With that uncertainty at the top, they’d like to strengthen their batting and so Pant will play. I am hoping that he plays at No. 6 because that will allow you to pick five bowlers to try and get 20 Australian wickets,” said Sunil Gavaskar.