By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI, February 4 (Reuters) – Rishabh Pant’s batting heroism in Australia was rewarded on Thursday when skipper Virat Kohli confirmed the 23-year-old would keep his wicket in the opening test against England in Chennai, from Friday.
India were torn between Pant and Wriddhiman Saha, who is widely regarded as the best keeper, but was dropped after managing just 13 points in the opening test against Australia in Adelaide in December.
Substituting him behind the stumps, Pant produced a spectacular fourth innings of 97 and 89 steps in Sydney and Brisbane to help India clinch an epic 2-1 series triumph last month.
Pant “has had an impact performance in Australia recently, and he’s in a good space,” Kohli said on a video conference ahead of the series opening at M A Chidambaram Stadium.
“We want him to build on that, with him to improve all aspects of his game, which will happen with more playing time and more confidence that he gets from playing these games.”
India had preferred Saha at home, where his neat gloves were particularly effective while remaining in the spinners.
Pant has had a few takes in Australia but Kohli said he “brings a lot of value to this team, and he will continue to be supported because he is an impact player.”
“He can certainly be a very consistent match winner for India and someone the opposition will certainly be wary of whenever they play against India.”
Kohli missed the last three tests in Australia to witness the birth of her daughter, but was delighted to see how, under Ajinkya Rahane, India achieved a stunning turnaround.
“We have been working for a long time to create a team identity,” said Kohli, hoping to lead India to a 13th consecutive home test series victory.
“Since I took the lead in testing in 2014, we have decided to play to win, and the draw will be our last resort,” he said. “We stick to that, day after day, series after series.
“Our last two series wins in Australia have confirmed that we are on the right track.”