Pant returns to a Test XI at home after two years

Chennai, Feb 4 : India have decided to continue with in-form batsman-wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant for the first Test against England starting here on Friday as he is a “match-winner”, said India skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday. This means that 36-year-old Wriddhiman Saha, who has been keeping wickets at home, will sit out, though he is in the squad.

Pant, 23, last played a home Test over two years ago, against West Indies in Hyderabad.

Pant’s match-saving and match-winning performance in the third Test in Sydney and in the fourth in Brisbane against Australia last month has guaranteed a place for him in the Test squad. A decent performance by Pant could well signal curtains for Saha.

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“Yes, Rishabh Pant will start and don the gloves tomorrow. He had impact performances in Australia recently and is in a good head space and we want him to build on this along with him improving all aspects of the game which will happen with more game-time and the more confidence he gets while playing those games,” said Kohli on the eve of the first Test, to be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here.

Pant, a left-handed batsman, had made 97 on the fifth day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a drawn game and scored an unbeaten 89 on the fifth day of the fourth and final Test to help India to victory.

Kohli said that the team was looking at Pant, who last played a home Test in October 2018, as the one for the future because he has proven his ability to win matches for India.

“That is how we look at Rishabh. He’s come along nicely in Australia after the IPL. He wasn’t part of the white-ball squad but kept working [and], worked hard on his fitness and his game. And he got the results eventually which we are all happy to see. He is someone we have backed quite a lot and for good reason,” he said.

“He will continue to be backed because he is an impact player. Along with his hard work, he can be a very, very consistent match-winner for India and someone who the opposition will definitely be wary of every time they play against India.”

Pant’s place in playing XI came up for debate in the third Test in Australia after he dropped opener Will Pucovski twice in the first innings. However, he roared back with a batting performance on the final day of the match with a strokefilled 97. He then scored a match-winning unbeaten 89 in the fourth and final Test in Brisbane.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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