Since the retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his replacement Wriddhiman Saha had performed brilliantly for his team. Not only was his keeping excellent but he also played many valuable innings at difficult times to bail his side out of trouble.
However, injuries forced him out of the Indian team last year and, while he has been away, his replacement Rishabh Pant emerged as a highly exciting talent. Most Indians are now rooting for Pant to be in the Indian team of all formats. The hard work of Saha has been completely forgotten. Even Sourav Ganguly, who comes from the same state as Saha – West Bengal – has decided to promote Pant as an exceptional talent.
Who is better, Saha or Pant?
However, amidst all this fanfare for the Delhi-based left-hander, what has been forgotten is the capability of Saha. When it comes to wicketkeeping, the Bengal player is miles ahead of his junior colleague. While the former has shown the ability to be flawless behind the stumps and grab some stunning catches, Pant's keeping has been extremely shoddy.
While the Delhi Capitals' star player may be able to play in a much more aggressive manner, both his hundreds at the Test level – one in England and the other in Australia – came on dead flat tracks against tired attacks. Saha, in comparison, has brought India out of precarious situations in testing conditions more than once. In other words, if you have to choose someone to bat for your life from these two, Saha will be the preferred option.
Lifeline for Saha
But with all the fanfare surrounding Pant, it seemed like the Bengal keeper would no longer be needed. But the selectors have decided to do justice to the senior pro by picking him in the India 'A' squad for three 4-day matches against West Indies 'A' during the former team's tour beginning on July 11, later this year. Interestingly, the back-up keeper in the squad is Andhra Pradesh's K Srikar Bharat and not Pant. The Delhi keeper has instead been picked for the 5 one-day matches to be played on that tour.
So, the clear inference that can be drawn from this selection is that the selectors are giving an opportunity to Saha to bring himself back in the team. The non-selection of Pant may arise from two possible reasons. Either the selectors see him as playing India's next Test anyway if Saha doesn't fire in West Indies and therefore don't want him to be further stretched. Or, they may have made up their mind to bring Saha back into the Test scene considering his removal from the side was due to injury.
Whatever be the case, the fact that Saha is a much better keeper and has been successful with the bat is going to worry Pant. If the Bengal player is successful on his tour of West Indies, a place where he scored a brilliant century during India's last tour, it's hard to see selectors not bringing him back into the Test fold. If that happens, Pant may well have to make way for the senior player just as Karun Nair had to make way for Ajinkya Rahane despite scoring a triple century.