“Rishabh Pant will start tomorrow” – Virat Kohli confirms southpaw’s presence in playing XI

Rishabh Pant

Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill

Indian skipper Virat Kohli has confirmed that wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant will be a part of the hosts’ playing XI for the first Test against England in Chennai.

The 23-year-old was ignored for the first Test of the recently-concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Adelaide, with Wriddhiman Saha donning the gloves.

However, Pant was included for the remaining three Tests Down Under and dished out consistent performances, emerging as the visitors’ highest-scorer. He managed to smash 274 runs at a phenomenal average of 68.50.

The left-hander played the innings of his life on the final day of the series-decider at the Gabba, as his 89* helped an injury-ravaged India end Australia’s 32-year unbeaten streak at the venue.

In a video conference before the Chennai Test starting on Friday, Virat Kohli stated that the Indian team wanted Pant to carry on his sizzling form.

This has put the Pant-Saha conundrum to rest, with the youngster set to keep wickets in his first Test on home soil.

“Yes, Rishabh (Pant) will start tomorrow. He had a massive impact in Australia and is in a good headspace and we want to continue with him. He’s come along nicely after the IPL and he’s worked hard in his fitness and his game. We were very happy to see him flourish,” Virat Kohli said.

Along with Rishabh Pant, Virat Kohli has also all but confirmed that Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will be Team India’s openers for all four Tests against England.

Rohit Sharma has an unbelievable record at home as a Test opener, with 556 runs in five Tests at a stupendous average of 92.66.

Meanwhile, Shubman Gill’s rise in Test cricket has been nothing short of meteoric. In just three Tests, the 21-year-old has scored 259 runs at a brilliant average of 51.80.

This includes two half-centuries, including a valiant 91 in Brisbane which helped the visitors breach the Gabba fortress.

The duo gave Team India good starts at the top of the order in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and thus, Virat Kohli wants to continue with the opening combination.

This means that Mayank Agarwal, who was once the hosts’ established opener, may have to wait for his turn.

“We are looking forward to giving Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill a long rope as openers. We look forward to good starts from them in all the Test matches we play,” Virat Kohli asserted.

While the batting is more or less sorted, Virat Kohli’s Team India still have to figure out out their bowling combination. The 32-year-old will likely back a five-pronged bowling attack.

However, it remains to be seen what combination of pacers and spinners they are looking at.

Will Axar Patel make his Test debut? Or will Washington Sundar be rewarded for his excellent Test debut at the Gabba? Will Kuldeep Yadav make a return to the Indian Test team? These questions are set to be answered in less that 24 hours.

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