Will Wriddhiman Saha be preferred over Rishabh Pant in playing 11?

Updated: Jul 23, 2019, 10:50 IST | Clayton Murzello

Keeping fit-again stumper Wriddhiman Saha out of Test playing XI in the West Indies would be unfair on a top performer who has overcome multiple injury hassles

Will Wriddhiman Saha be preferred over Rishabh Pant in playing 11?
Wriddhiman Saha. Pic/Getty Images

The return of Wriddhiman Saha, India's No. 1 choice wicketkeeper not very long ago, should rank as a significant development in Indian cricket. But how important is the Bengal wicketkeeper for India on the Test scene today? Going by what chief selector MSK Prasad told the media on Sunday after announcing the Test, ODI and T20 squads for the West Indies tour, it appears that Saha has a sword above his head and there seems to be a ring of tokenism in his selection.

"We have an unwritten norm — when an established cricketer gets injured, an opportunity should be given to him [when he gets fit]. That's how we have given an opportunity to Wriddhiman Saha," Prasad said. That should be sweet music to Saha's ears.

Also Read: Team India wants MS Dhoni to stay as Rishabh Pant gets groomed

What Prasad said next, shouldn't. He remarked that KS Bharat has been coming up with "stellar performances" for India 'A' and came very close to selection. In other words, Bharat could well have crushed Saha's hopes of a comeback. Prasad also provided enough indication that it would be Pant behind the sticks in all formats in the West Indies, with Saha, 34, the senior glovesman, being his understudy.

"In the last three series, he [Bharat] got three centuries and picked up about 50 dismissals [behind the sticks], which is fantastic. Rishabh, KS and Saha are the guys whom we will be looking at in Test cricket for some time," Prasad stressed.

Saha was a great asset to the Test team before his hamstring, thumb and shoulder injuries played havoc with his career. By picking him, it is assumed that the selectors are convinced he is 100 per cent fit and it would not be supremely fair to have him sit out as Pant dons the big gloves.

Sure, Pant has scored runs in his dual role — he got a hundred in the last Test India played (Sydney earlier this year). He also lends balance to the team. But the question is: Is he India's best Test wicketkeeper? If the selectors feel so, then the wise men could have displayed their ruthless side and picked Bharat whom Prasad raved about on Sunday.

Bharat being part of the India 'A' team in the West Indies helps as well. And Saha would have ended being another hard luck case in Indian cricket.

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