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Select Team: Should India pick Pant for 1st Test?

By HARISH KOTIAN
December 14, 2020 17:58 IST
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Should India include Pant ahead of Saha?
Should Vihari get the nod as the extra batsman at No 6?

IMAGE: Hanuma Vihari celebrates his century with Rishabh Pant, who also scored a hundred, during the tour game against Australia A at the Sydney Cricket Ground, December 12, 2020. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
 

The three-day practice game between India and Australia A has given the team management plenty to ponder upon as they pick the side to play the first Test against Australia in Adelaide on December 17.

Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari hit centuries to put themselves in contention for the day-night opening Test at the Adelaide Oval.

Shubman Gill also staked his claim with a fluent 65 and 43 in the two innings against Australia A as Prithvi Shaw -- the other contender for the opening slot -- failed to make it count in both the practice games.

Regular opener Mayank Agarwal got back among the runs with a solid 61 much to India's relief after he struggled in the two ODIs he played last month.

Pant stole the show with a blazing 103 not out from 73 balls, hitting medium pacer Jack Wildermuth for 4, 4, 6, 4, 4 off the final over of the second day to bring up his century in grand style.

Vihari, batting at No 4, was solid at the other end, with a resolute 104 not out.

The big dilemma for Captain Virat Kohli and Coach Ravi Shastri will be who to pick as wicket-keeper. Wriddhiman Saha, the first choice 'keeper, also hit a match-winning 54 not out in the first practice match against Australia A.

Will Kohli and Shastri opt for the batting flamboyance of Pant, whose glove work is not up to the mark? Or they will go for the experience of Saha -- rated as one of the world's top glovesman -- as keeping against the pink ball won't be that easy?

Despite the century, Vihari's inclusion will depend on the combination India pick for the Test. If the team prefers to play an extra batsman at No 6, then Vihari will come into the picture as he can also bowl some off-spin.

If they prefer five bowlers, then Vihari could miss out.

The fast bowlers's splendid showing on Day 1 of the second tour match would have boosted India's morale going into the four-match series.

Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini picked up three wickets each, while Jasprit Bumrah, who also hit a half-century (55 not outt, bagged two wickets to send Australia A crashing for 108 after India were bowled out for 194.

K L Rahul was not picked for the second practice game and it is unlikely he would figure in India's plan for the series opener in Adelaide. However, he could come into the picture from the second Test onwards when Kohli returns home for the birth of his child

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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