India v South Africa: Rishabh Pant gets the axe, Rohit Sharma to open in first Test
Young wicketkeeper makes way for the reliable Wriddhiman Saha in Visakhapatnam match
Just a few days after coach Ravi Shastri said the "team management will back him to the hilt", wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant lost his spot in the Indian playing XI for the first Test against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.
Pant emerged as a game changer in red-ball cricket as he became the first Indian wicketkeeper to score Test centuries in England and Australia. But he has been far from his best in 2019, throwing his wicket away more often than not. However, it looks like Pant has paid the price for his performances in limited overs cricket.
Pant's spot went to the fit-again Wriddhiman Saha, who last played a Test in the beginning of 2018 due to multiple injuries and saw his place go to Pant. Saha, 34, is the best wicketkeper in the country and the management has backed his reliable glovework against spin over Pant's aggressive batting.
Captain Virat Kohli said Saha brings loads of experience to the table and even called the Bengal gloveman "the best in the world".
"Saha is fit and fine to go. He is going to start the series for us. His keeping credentials are for everyone to see," Kohli was quoted as saying by AFP.
"Saha was always the one we would back as a pure keeper in Test cricket. He has done well under pressure situations in the past for us, so it was just about finding the right opportunity to bring him back in.
"He has done well with the bat whenever he has got a chance. It was unfortunate that he was out with an injury. According to me he is the best keeper the world. With these conditions he starts for us."
The decision to open with limited-overs behemoth Rohit Sharma, however, is far from conservative as this is the first time he will be doing so in red-ball cricket. Rohit will be up against the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, which will be a massive challenge irrespective of the nature of the pitch.
"Rohit is going to start for sure," Kohli said. "Rohit's been in the Test set up for a long time. It's about providing him the opportunity to really find his game and find that template that he wants to in Test cricket.
"And we understand that if he does that, then our batting order at the top becomes more lethal. It's difficult to have a player like him not to start every time."
Meanwhile, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin returned to the team and will partner now first-choice spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
Updated: October 1, 2019 03:09 PM