Bengaluru: Former India captain Anil Kumble has hailed Wriddhiman Saha as the best wicketkeeper in the world and backed the team management’s decision to play him against South Africa in the first Test ahead of Rishabh Pant.

Ahead of the India-South Africa three-Test series for the Gandhi-Mandela Trophy, captain Virat Kohli said Saha will take over the big gloves from Pant. This was after Pant had cemented his place in Saha’s absence due to injury.

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“Saha, we all know the quality that he brings behind the stumps. There are no two ways that he is India's best keeper. And in fact he is probably the best keeper in the world. He was absolutely brilliant behind the stumps, he did exceptionally well even in the front of the stumps,” 48-year-old Kumble told CricketNext website when asked about Pant losing his Test spot to Saha after doing well in the West Indies.

“In a couple of occasions when India were in trouble, he (Saha) got them out of trouble. Got a hundred, I remember in Ranchi and St. Lucia, he got those brilliant hundreds when we were in trouble. So yes he missed out because of his shoulder injury and Rishabh Pant made use of this opportunity and batted well and he kept well as well but to me what is critical is if he is not playing in a Test match, ideally there are times when the 13, 14 and 15 go out and play first class cricket,” he added.

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Kumble, who had earlier coached India, opined that Pant should play domestic cricket to improve his wicketkeeping.

“And in this case, obviously it is the start of the season and you have Vijay Hazare Trophy that is being played and it is a one day format and you don't want your players to go and play but going forward if there is a situation that is where Saha is keeping and you would want Rishabh Pant to go and play first-class game for Delhi and the selectors need to look at that.

“Because the more he keeps, the better he will get. He is still young, let's not forget he is in the first season of international cricket and he has done exceedingly well and the expectations on Rishabh is far more because of what he has been able to achieve in the shorter format and in the IPL he has shown his destructive qualities and even in international cricket on a couple of occasions. 

“So, his batting is always spoken about and only if he spends a lot of time keeping wickets in a four-day competition is when he is going to improve and that can only happen if he is either playing Test match cricket or if he is not then he must be playing first class cricket,” Kumble, India’s highest wicket-taker in Tests and ODIs, explained.

India won the first Test against the Proteas in Visakhapatnam. The second Test starts tomorrow (October 10) in Pune.