Rishabh Pant's woeful form continues as he departs cheaply in practice game against New Zealand XI
Team India kickstarted their three-day practice game at Seddon Park against New Zealand XI ar Seddon Park in Hamilton. The three-day is not only a chance for the Men in Blue to zero-in on an ideal combination ahead of the first Test that starts at the Basin Reserve in Wellington from February 21 but it is also a chance for the fringe players to push for selection.
One of the things that everyone was looking forward to- apart from who partners Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order- is how Rishabh Pant fares. Once referred as the all-for brilliant hundred keeper-batsman of India, Pant’s stock has sharply declined in the past 3-4 months with Wriddhiman Saha and KL Rahul pipping him from the keepers’ slot in Test and white-ball cricket respectively.
Pant was sent ahead of Saha on the first day of the practice game but the southpaw could only manage 7 runs before he fell to leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. Pant’s dismissal insinuated yet another collapse for the Indians as they went on to lose their last five wickets for 30 runs.
Hanuma Vihari racks up a brilliant hundred
Earlier, the Indians endured a disastrous start to their innings. They lost the opener, Prithvi Shaw, for a four-ball duck when he was surprised by the extra bounce of Scott Kuggeleijn and gave an easy catch to short-leg. Mayank Agarwal dismal run-of-form continued as he perished for a 13-ball 1 to the same bowler.
Kuggeleijn was getting a good bounce from the track and just like Shaw, the in-form Shubman Gill too succumbed against the short ball to leave India reeling at 3-5. Ajinkya Rahane played some sumptu0us strokes before James Neesham got the better of the Indian vice-captain for 18.
With the visitors reeling at 4-40, India desperately needed a partnership. And, they got it in the form of a 195-run stand between Cheteshwar Pujara [93 off 211 balls] and Hanuma Vihari who racked up a brilliant three-figure score. Pujara’s dismissal brought Pant to the crease but the southpaw could not convert the opportunity into a big innings
Pant, who last played a Test match back in August against the West Indies, hasn’t played an international game for India since he was concussed in the first ODI against Australia. He was benched from the entire white-ball leg in New Zealand and it seems like that will continue in the Test series.