Testing times in India’s backyard

The Tribune

The Tribune

Author 2019-10-02 09:56:00

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Visakhapatnam, October 1

India are set to select Wriddhiman Saha to replace Rishabh Pant for the first Test of a three-match series against South Africa here tomorrow, with skipper Virat Kohli describing Saha as the best wicketkeeper in the world. The 34-year-old Saha played the last of his 32 Tests against South Africa in Cape Town in January last year but had struggled to find a way back into the squad with shoulder and hamstring injuries hampering his progress.

Pant, 21, stepped in to fill the gap and has scored centuries in England and Australia. But Kohli suggested the experienced Saha would don the gloves this time, partly in view of the spin-friendly wickets in India. “Yes, Saha is fit and fine to go, and he’s going to start for us this series, and his keeping credentials are there for everyone to see,” Kohli said. “He’s the best wicketkeeper in the world, so in these conditions, with what he’s done in the past, he starts for us. He’s played well whenever he’s got a chance, with the bat also, and it was unfortunate that he was out for such a long period.”

Kohli said India had stuck with Pant in the recent two-Test series in the West Indies to ensure Saha was not rushed back into action. “We felt Rishabh, given the opportunities, had done well and although Saha was almost going to start in the West Indies, we felt it was better to just let him ease back into things rather than forcing him into starting immediately,” Kohli said.

Rohit will get enough space

Kohli threw his weight behind Rohit Sharma, saying his promotion to the opening slot in Tests could end up making the line-up “more lethal” and the stylish batsman will be given enough “space” to find his game in red-ball cricket. “...If he does that (succeeds in the opening role), then our batting order at the top becomes more lethal. It is difficult to have a player like that to not start every time,” said Kohli. “...if he comes into his own then the whole batting order looks a completely different batting order anywhere in the world,” added the skipper.

Asked if the management is thinking of giving Rohit at least five to six Tests, Kohli said: “We are not looking to rush him. There is a different pattern you follow in India and different abroad. Opening is a spot where you have to give a player space to understand his own game. He will be given space to find his game and come into his own.”

Kohli said with the team playing mostly outside India in the last 18 months, the batsmen had a few issues adjusting to spin bowling, which remains a Subcontinental speciality. The captain also confirmed the availability of seasoned spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin, who is yet to play international cricket since he injured himself during the Adelaide Test win last December, was not part of the Tests in the West Indies. The rest of the line-up looks settled, with India fielding two pacers and as many spinners. If the wicket is turning, Hanuma Vihari will be expected to contribute as the third spinner. — Agencies

15-11 Overall head-to-head record in favour of South Africa vs India. 10 matches ended in a draw. At home, India have played 16 matches vs SA, winning eight, losing five and 3 games ended in a draw. In South Africa, India have played 20 matches, winning three, losing 10 and seven games ended in a draw

11India are aiming to win a record-breaking 11th consecutive series at home

5Survivors in the South Africa team from their last tour to India in 2015, when they were beaten 3-0

242Runs required by Virat Kohli to join batting legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, who have scored 1000 or more runs against South Africa in Tests. Kohli currently has 758 runs against the Proteas in nine Tests. Tendulkar has 1741 runs in 25 Tests, Dravid 1252 runs in 21 Tests and Sehwag has 1306 runs in 15 Tests

256Wickets taken by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja between them at home at an average of 20.78 since November 2015. Since India lost the home series to England in 2012-13, after which Ashwin-Jadeja teamed up, India have lost just one home Test out of 29

22 Months, time after which wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha makes a comeback to the Indian Test team

2 Wickets Jadeja needs to become the tenth Indian to take 200 Test wickets. Playing his 44th Test, Jadeja will be the second-fastest Indian to 200 wickets, behind Ashwin (37) and ahead of Harbhajan Singh (46)

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