The wicketkeeper’s spot remains among the few many questions that India are yet to answer heading into the Adelaide opener against Australia on December 17. On a day when Indian batters, barring Prithvi Shaw, enjoyed a lengthy sighter under the lights as Hanuma Vihari scored a century while Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal added to the board with their respective fifties, hence reducing the work of the Indian think tank, Rishabh Pant added to the management’s happy headache with a blistering 73-ball century, which included a 22-ball last over, to push for his selection in first Test ahead of Wriddhiman Saha.
A year back Pant was India’s solitary wicktkeeping option heading to West Indies. But an array of poor outings, including that in Test where he had excelled beyond expectations notching up centuries apeice in Australia and England, saw the youngster drop out of reckoning in the limited-overs series before being completely set aside in both ODIs and T20Is when India landed in Australia this November.
Wriddhiman, meanwhile made a sparkling return to Test cricket in India’s home campaign as part of the World Test Championship, which further added to his woe. Yet Pant was given a go in the New Zealand series with India going with the horses for courses strategy.
India are now on overseas soil, gearing up to retain the Border-Gavaskar series, which puts Pant ahead of Saha going by the trend but the youngster warmed the benceh in the opening warm-up tie at the Drummoyne Oval last week before registering a score of just five off 11 in the first innings of the pink ball warm-up game where he was troubled by the short ball before Jack Wildermuth struck his pads plumb. Saha, who was selected both both the games, scored an innings-reviving half-century to hold the opening warm-up game to a tie, albeit his knock stands between two ducks he registered the second being a 22-ball stay at the crease in Sydney on Friday.
Pant made most of his final opportunity on Saturday to smash a string of boundaries and sixes in his 733-ball knock of 103, an innings reminiscent of Steve Waugh’s memorable Ashes hundred at the same venue. Pant ended the day tonking the same Wildermuth for four boundaries and six and reached his century in the final ball of the day.
The century might have added to Pant’s inclusion for the opener next week, but it has left the management in a dilemma with the more-experienced Saha in the waiting, who was hailed by Virat Kohli as the “best keeper in the world” during the South Africa series, a glimpse of which he had shown with his spectacular catch at deep mid-wicket on Friday without the gloves.