New Delhi: Team India start the home leg of their World Test Championship with the series against South Africa on October 2. But a major issue that has the former cricketers divided is whether Wriddhiman Saha or Rishabh Pant should be the first-choice keeper on the turning Indian tracks.
While the world accepts the fact that Pant is one of the most destructive batsmen at present, the general feeling is that his keeping still needs quite a bit of improvement. Similarly, while the general feeling is that Saha is one of the best keepers in world cricket at present, his batting can be an issue against the faster bowlers.
But considering the fact that India are playing at home and pace and bounce will not be such an issue, that could actually go in favour of Saha because low catches and stumpings against the turning ball is an area where the latter scores over Pant.
A lot will depend on how skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri see the balance of the team when Saha is part of the XI as compared to Pant. Saha scoring some runs in recent times for India 'A' against South Africa 'A' is also an area that will need consideration because on the slower tracks in India, Saha is a decent bat. But then, Pant is a destroyer and can take the game away with the bat.
Shastri in a recent interview did speak of giving Pant the long rope, but hasn't been very clear if that would only be for the white-ball format or also for the red-ball format.
"If someone goofs up, I have to pull them up. Am I there only to play tabla? But this guy is world class, this guy can be destructive, can be a destroyer. And we will give him all the support that he needs to prosper in international cricket," Shastri told Hindustan Times.
"Pant is different, he is world-class and is a brutal match-winner. Very few around in the world game; I can't pick five on my hands when it comes to white-ball cricket, T20 cricket. So the patience we will have with him is a lot."
In fact, Shastri also said that all the talks were only in the media and by pundits and not in the dressing room.
"All your media reports and all the experts writing (but) Pant is in great space with this Indian team. Experts, they have a job, they can speak. Pant is a special kid and he has already done enough. And he is only going to learn. This team management will back him to the hilt," he said.
But then, it will definitely be an area to ponder when Kohli and Shastri sit down to pick the playing XI on the eve of the first game on October 2.