Rishabh Pant may have redeemed himself with his match-winning innings in the epic Gabba Test win and veteran wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha on Friday said the youngster will also improve his skills behind the stumps, like someone masters ‘algebra’ gradually. Saha, who is considered India’s number one wicketkeeper, said he does not see Pant’s heroic show as the end of road for him in the Indian team and he will continue to strive for excellence, leaving the selection headache to the team management.
“You can ask him (Pant), we have a friendly relationship and help each other whoever gets into the XI. Personally, there’s no conflict with him,” Saha told PTI in an interview after returning home from the historic Test series win in Australia.
“I dont’ see who is No 1 or 2… Team will give a chance to those who does better. I will continue to do my job. Selection is not in my hands, it’s up to the management.”
Saha was all praise for the 23-year-old Pant whose 89 not out on the fifth day sealed the match for India at the Gabba to win the series 2-1. “No one learns algebra in class I. You always go step by step. He is giving his best and will definitely improve. He has always matured and proved himself. In the long run, it augurs well for the Indian team, he said of Pant who was often found wanting behind the stumps.
“The way he has shown his intent after being sidelined from his favourite T20/ODI formats was really exceptional.”
Since the Brisbane show, Pant’s comparison with the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni has only grown but Saha said “Dhoni will remain Dhoni and everyone has his own identity”.
Saha scored 9 and 4 in the Day/Night Adelaide Test where India were shot out for a record low of 36 and he did not play in the remaining three matches. “Anyone can go through a bad phase. A professional player always accepts the highs and lows, be it with form or criticism,” the 36-year-old said.
“I was unable to score runs that’s why Pant got the chance. It’s as simple as that. I always focused on improving my skills and never gave a thought to my career, even when I started playing cricket. It’s the same approach now,” he said.
He said the series win was “no less than a World Cup triumph” because of the way the team bounced back from 36 all out in Adelaide and an considering the inexperience of many players.
“Even though I did not play (in three matches), I enjoyed every moment of it. We faced challenges in putting up XI players, so it was an outstanding feat, an outstanding team effort. Definitely, it will be one of our greatest series wins.”
Saha said India may not have known the outstanding depth in their reserve bench had they not faced the crisis situation of several players injuring themselves, apart from captain Virat Kohli leaving after the first Test on paternity leave.
“It was about instilling self-belief and going session by session. The series win last time also played in our minds,” Saha said.
Both Pant and Saha have been picked for the first two Tests in the home series against England next month and it remains to be seen whether the team think tank will play the veteran as a specialist wicketkeeper. Saha feels stand-by captain Ajinkya Rahane’s success mantra was staying calm even in the toughest situations.
“He goes about his job with a cool head. Like Virat, he too has full of belief in his players. Unlike Virat, he never shows any excitement. Approach is a bit different, Rahane stays calm always, never loses temper. He knows well how to motivate the players. That is his success mantra.”