Chennai: India captain Virat Kohli on Thursday confirmed that Rishabh Pant will keep wickets in the opening test against England, beginning here on Friday.
The 23-year-old Pant was instrumental with the bat in India’s historic series win in Australia. He played spectacular fourth innings knocks of 97 and 89 not out in Sydney and Brisbane to help India pull off an epic 2-1 series triumph last month.
And skipper Kohli is highly impressed with Pant’s showings Down Under.
“Rishabh will take the gloves tomorrow. He has had impact performances in Australia recently. He is in good space. We want him to build on this along with him improving all aspects of the game, which will happen with more game time,” Kohli said at a pre-match press conference on Thursday.
India had preferred Saha at home, where his neat glovework has been particularly effective while keeping to spinners. However, Pant grabbed the opportunity with both hands after Saha’s twin failures in India’s humiliating defeat in the first Test in Adelaide.
Pant did drop some catches in Australia, but Kohli feels he “brings in a lot of value to this team, and he will continue to be backed because he’s an impact player”.
“He has come along very nicely. He wasn’t part of white ball formats, but he kept working hard on his fitness, on his games. We have backed him quite a lot and for good reason – something you saw in Australia. He will continue to be backed. With his hard work he can be a very very consistent match winner and someone the opposition will be wary of in the future,” the Indian skipper said.
Speaking about his deputy Ajinkya Rahane, who captained India to the historic series win in Australia after the regular captain’s departure for the birth of his child, Kohli said both of them share a ‘great camaraderie’.
“Things are very different from outside compared to what happens inside the dressing room. Not just between me and him (Rahane) but the whole team, camaraderie is based on trust,’ said Kohli.
‘It was amazing to see how he led the team to win in Australia. It’s the mutual respect, bonding, on and off the field. The partnership will remain the same as ever,’ he added.
Meanwhile, there will be plenty of nervous eyes watching the four-Test series between India and England, with three teams’ World Test Championship fates hanging in the balance.
New Zealand have already qualified for the final of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship. They will be joined by either India, England, or Australia.
India are currently at the top spot with a PCT of 71.7 per cent, following their 2-1 series triumph in Australia. They will have to win the series against England by 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0, margin to book their place in final.
For England to qualify and join New Zealand, they will have to win the series against India by 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 margin.
Australia sits third on 69.2 per cent of total points contested. They can qualify for the much-anticipated ICC WTC final if the series between India and England ends up as a drawn series, or if India win the series 1-0 or England win it by 1-0, 2-1 or 2-1 margin.