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Rishabh Pant loses his place in Test side to Wriddhiman Saha
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Rishabh Pant loses his place in Test side to Wriddhiman Saha

Virat Kohli has confirmed Wriddhiman Saha will be India's wicketkeeper ahead of Rishabh Pant in the Test series opener against South Africa starting Wednesday.

Pant's exclusion from the line-up comes as a huge blow to the rising star's nascent career after he had copped criticism for his poor run of form in the two-match Test series in the West Indies.

The 21-year-old, who had been groomed to take over from MS Dhoni as India's first-choice wicketkeeper, has failed to impress in limited-overs cricket as well in recent times.

Pant's 'rash shot selection' had also attracted the ire of India batting coach Vikram Rathour, who advised him to bring discipline to his game.

His replacement Saha last represented India in January 2018 in South Africa but was forced to withdraw midway through the tour owing to a hamstring injury.

A subsequent battle with injury woes for Saha allowed Pant the opportunity to cement his place in the Test side with explosive performances during tours to England and Australia.

"Saha is fit and fine to go. He is going to start the series for us. His keeping credentials are for everyone to see," said India skipper Kohli.

"Saha was always the one we would back as a pure keeper in Test cricket. He has done well under pressure situations in the past for us, so it was just about finding the right opportunity and the moment to bring him back in."

Saha is highly rated for his keeping skills especially on Indian pitches and he made the case for selection with a half-century against South Africa A in Mysore leading up to the Test series.

"He has done well with the bat whenever he has got a chance. It was unfortunate that he was out with an injury. According to me, he is the best keeper in the world. With these conditions he starts for us," Kohli added.

India have opted for the services of Rohit Sharma to open the innings for the home side.

The 32-year-old Sharma's stop-start career in Test cricket has been spent in the middle-order and this will be the first instance the limited-overs great faces the new ball upfront in the conventional five-day format.

"Rohit is going to start for sure. We have given people opportunities in the past... Rohit's been in the Test set-up for a long time, it's about providing him the opportunity to really find his game and find that template that he wants to in Test cricket," Kohli told reporters.

"And we understand that if he does that, then our batting order at the top becomes more lethal. It's difficult to have a player like him not to start every time."

India XI for the first Test

Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami

#INDvSA#1st Test#South Africa in India 2019#India#South Africa