Gavaskar, Border pick Gill over Shaw; Pant over Saha for first Test

Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border picked Shubman Gill over Prithvi Shaw to open the innings with Mayank Agarwal in the day-night Test in Adelaide on December 17.

The Border-Gavaskar Test series begins in Adelaide on December 17.   -  Reuters Photo

Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border on Monday picked Shubman Gill over Prithvi Shaw to open the innings with Mayank Agarwal in the day-night Test in Adelaide on December 17.

Gill featured in both of India's warm-up matches in the lead up to the first Test and was in good nick, with scores of 43 and 65 at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

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With no Rohit Sharma in the squad, Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw have been the incumbent Test openers, but Shaw copped criticism from Gavaskar and Border for playing a few too many shots. He was out for 0, 19, 40 and 3 in his four outings in the two tour games.

Gill over Shaw

"I think he [Shaw] has got to spend a little more time assessing his batting. As an opening batsman, you have to give yourself time to see what the pitch and the bowlers are doing," Gavaskar said at a virtual media interaction. “Trying to bat the way he is batting at the moment is not going to make him a consistent player. Yes, he is going to make runs once in a while but he needs to tighten up his defence.”

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Border echoed Gavaskar’s views and also praised Gill. “It seems to me he [Shaw] plays a shot every ball. I guess with the new ball, it looks good on flat tracks but in Australia, you got to be a little bit more watchful about your shot selection. He seems to be a bit loose (sic) outside the off-stump.

“I have been in Sydney the last couple of days, watching your boys run around. Jee, I was impressed with Gill. I really think he has got something about him - his technique. I know he is young, so he can play a few rash shots here and there but he looks like a seriously good player. He will be my pick [for the opener's position] out of the guys I saw.”

Pant over Saha

India captain Virat Kohli may have hailed Wriddhiman Saha as the "best wicketkeeper in the world” in 2019, but Gavaskar feels the fact that Pant scored a hundred in the last tour game - under lights - should see the left-hander break into India XI, at least for the first Test.

"Pant played in all four Tests two years ago and he also got a hundred. He seems to have got under the skin of some of the Australian players with his chirping behind the stumps. Plus he is coming off a 100 in the practice game, so he would be the choice of the management," Gavaskar said.

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Pant has been India's wicketkeeper on the last three overseas tours to England, Australia and New Zealand and became the first Indian wicketkeeper to hit Test centuries in England and Australia in the 2018-19 season.

The Adelaide game, the first of the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy, will be the first time India is playing a pink-ball Test – as the day-night games are referred to – away from home. India’s only previous pink-ball Test was against Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019.

Shaky top-order

Gavaskar feels the conditions and the uncertainty surrounding India's top-order tip the scales in Pant's favour. "Here, because India will play pacers, so you [keeper] can stand behind and you get that much more time from 15 yards behind the stumps ... also at the top of the order, India seem to be a little bit shaky, so they would want to strengthen their batting," Gavaskar said.

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"But when you are playing on pitches where the keeper has to stand up to the stumps, where the ball turns around a little bit, that's when you tend to take your best keeper in which case Saha would be the obvious choice."

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