The Indian Test team boasts of two proven wicket-keepers in its ranks and interestingly both players are in their final phase of their respective careers.
Wriddhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel are both able and the former’s run of games and excellency behind the stumps sees him hold on to the position as India’s No. 1 in Test cricket. In the ongoing tour of South Africa, India lost the first Test by 72 runs and Saha’s batting display was a weak link despite a big contrast in his keeping abilities.
Saha’s ability as keeper outshines his batting
Saha was the unsung hero in the side as he achieved a unique record at Newlands in Cape Town by becoming the first Indian wicket-keeper to notch 10 dismissals in a Test match. He broke MS Dhoni’s record of nine dismissals as his performance behind the stumps continues to excel. But the issue with Saha has been his dodgy batting especially outside the sub-continent and also at times in Asia.
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That is one aspect that somewhat brings an incomplete picture to Saha’s attributes. The team management’s decision in sending Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya ahead of Saha shows that they still do not know what his position in the order is. After Dhoni’s retirement from Tests, one would have expected Saha to take over the baton and seal the position that the former skipper had in the side. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened.
Saha’s scores of 0 and 8 in the first innings did not do any significance in his contribution with the bat, but his dismissals behind the stumps caught the eye of everybody instead. India need runs from their No. 6 and 7 and Saha needs to secure either of the position and show he is ready for a show of character required in Tests.
Parthiv has achieved accolades in recent times
In 2016 an injury to Saha saw Parthiv get a chance in the side and the Gujarat player grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He had a decent show with the bat in the series against England at home and played convincingly both atop and in the middle-order. That’s a feature Parthiv brings along with him and he is pretty consistent too.
One of Parthiv’s constant criticism during the previous years was his shoddy wicket-keeping skills. His glove work was under scrutiny during his initial years but the player worked hard to rectify the same. In the series against England, he did not do any wrong behind the stumps, but once Saha came back from injury, it meant Parthiv had to vacate the place once again.
- Parthiv helped Gujarat win the 2016-17 Ranji trophy title. It was their maiden victory
- Leading run-scorer for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2017
- He also excelled for Mumbai Indians in the Premier League winning the title in 2017
- Had scored 195 runs in four innings across 3 Tests vs England in 2016
The challenge between the two
Parthiv falls in a difficult time zone where despite his superior batting skills, he is ignored as the premier choice. Any side should have enough competition for places to keep the players at their toes and Parthiv provides that challenge for Saha.
The team management has backed Saha over the years since Dhoni’s exit and have immense faith in the Bengal keeper. No doubt he is one of the best in business when it comes to glove work, but with vital away series against England, Australia and New Zealand in the coming time, Parthiv will be hoping to push for a place and earn that chance to cash in on it.
A look at their Test career as batsmen and keepers.
Wriddhiman Saha (Tests)
Matches: 32, Runs: 1164, Best: 117, Avg: 30.63
Catches: 75, Stumpings: 10
Parthiv Patel (Tests)
Matches: 23, Runs: 878, Best: 71, Avg: 33.76
Catches: 52, Stumpings: 10
Performances outside the sub-continent
Parthiv has toured Australia, England and New Zealand in the past and he hasn’t been quite successful with the bat.
Saha on the other hand has toured Australia and recently featured against the Proteas. He too has struggled.
Could Parthiv get a look in the 2nd Test?
India will ring in some changes in the 2nd Test and they will be hoping to get the batting line-up sorted. Virat Kohli is often known for his aggressive captaincy and there is hope for Parthiv to come in. The southpaw can open the batting alongside Murali Vijay in place of Shikhar Dhawan. That in turn opens up a place for Ajinkya Rahane to join the team and play alongside Rohit Sharma to bolster the middle order.
The 32-year old Parthiv might have been selected as a cover for Saha, but could well see himself getting a game in South Africa with his stroke play and application that could suit him in these conditions.