(Reuters) – India are set to select Wriddhiman Saha to replace Rishabh Pant for the first test of a three-match series against South Africa starting in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday, 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 told a news conference on Tuesday.
“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.
“Saha was always going to be someone that we would back as a pure keeper in test cricket, and he’s done well under pressure situations also in the past.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)