The independent voice of cricket

Australia v India

Saha or Pant: Who should keep in the Australia Tests? Wisden India writers have their say

Pant Saha
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Ahead of India’s tour of Australia, a major point of contention has been their wicketkeeping choice in Tests – four Wisden India writers chose between Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant.

Saha, 13 years Pant’s senior, has been keeping wickets for India since 2010 – full-time since MS Dhoni retired in 2014. While he continues to be India’s first-choice wicketkeeper in home games, given his expertise in keeping up to spin bowlers, India have tried out other options abroad, especially in the last couple of years.

In fact, Saha’s batting numbers have been a major cause of concern for him – in his last three years, a chunk of which were lost to injury, Saha averages 18.00 in nine Tests, managing a high score of 29 in ten innings. Pant’s entry, in a way, has coincided with Saha’s batting decline – in his 13 Tests so far, Pant averages 38.76, having already scored two centuries, both of them outside India. For many, his expressive batting style alone is good enough for him to find a permanent space in the middle order.

However, a fit-again Saha, upon his return to the set-up in 2019, looked in prime form behind the sticks, keeping up to spinners with aplomb and adjusting to the swinging ball admirably. IPL isn’t the best template to judge, but Saha has also looked in good touch in the IPL, scoring runs freely, even as Pant, bogged down by injury and poor form, has failed to stand out.

Left out for the white-ball leg, Pant would be vying for a Test spot with Saha ahead of the first Test on December 17. We asked Wisden India writers to give their choices, and the result was a tie.

Manoj Narayan, Wisden India Editor

Wriddhiman Saha. As a pure wicketkeeper, he is the automatic choice over Pant. And increasingly, as a batsman too, Saha is becoming a more convincing choice. Admittedly, his performance in the IPL has influenced this pick, but that’s a good thing – Saha has shown he has versatility in his batting, something that Pant has tried to do and failed. Pant scored a century in Australia when India last toured there, but he’s not the same carefree batsman anymore. The impression is that a lot of contradicting advice has muddled Pant’s game, and in Australia, you’re better off going with your most reliable players. Saha is definitely one of them.

Aadya Sharma, Wisden India Staff Writer

I wouldn’t put a rusty Rishabh Pant in the XI at the moment. There’s a lot of scrutiny over his form and unfair expectations have weighed on him throughout the IPL. I’d rather have Wriddhiman Saha claiming a spot for the marquee series on merit – both as an outstanding wicketkeeper and a man in form and confidence, even if it’s T20 form [there’s hardly been any other cricket recently to gauge performances]. Furthermore, for Pant’s own good, it could be better for him to stay on the sidelines, and away from prying eyes, polishing himself under Saha and earning his confidence back. He’s a precocious talent, and one for the future – it’s fine to hold him back and let him grow back his appetite for runs.

Sankalp Srivastava, Wisden India Staff Writer

It has to be Rishabh Pant for me. He hasn’t been given a long enough rope in limited-overs formats; to make him wait on the sidelines even in Tests, without giving a proper run, would be unfair. In just 13 games, he already has a Test century each in Australia and England – MS Dhoni had none outside Asia. While his current form [in white-ball cricket] is a bit dodgy, it doesn’t sense to make him sit out on the back of his IPL form. Pant played all the four Tests on India’s last tour to Australia, scoring 350 runs at an average of 58.33 and was second only to Cheteshwar Pujara in the overall run-scoring charts. I can’t see why he shouldn’t be part of the playing XI come December 17.

Roshan Gede, Wisden India Staff Writer

While there’s little doubt [or perhaps none], that Saha has been India’s best in terms of glovework for quite some time now, it’s the batting that challenges his spot in the Test XI, especially overseas. He and Rishabh Pant have had contrasting fortunes with the bat of late, but the latter’s game-changing abilities and his hundreds at The Oval and Sydney can’t be easily overlooked. Depth in batting is a must for the visitors against a strong Australian attack, and this is where Pant could trump the veteran. As for the role with the bat Down Under, of the three times (other than India in 2018/19) that Australia have been beaten at home in the last decade – each series saw the glovemen – Matt Prior [2010/11], AB de Villiers [2012] and Quinton de Kock [2016] – make vital contributions with the bat.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99