IND vs SA: Saha out of Test series, Karthik named replacement

According to the BCCI, Wriddhiman Saha was being replaced by Dinesh Karthik in the Indian squad for the third Test at the Wanderers owing to an upper left hamstring tendon injury.

The All-India Senior Selection Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday announced that Karthik will be joining the team before the third Test.   -  V. Ganesan

Much of the talk doing the rounds in the media here over the last three days was about wicket-keeper batsman Wriddiman Saha being ‘dropped’ from the XI for the second Test to accommodate Parthiv Patel.

It was believed the team-management felt Parthiv was better suited to the conditions here as a batsman with his back-foot play.

Despite India captain Virat Kohli clarifying at the toss that Saha had been left out because of a hamstring niggle, many considered it “a bluff” to include Parthiv and “strengthen” batting.

Read: Virat Kohli penalised for poor on-field behaviour

However, a BCCI release on Tuesday has put the matter to rest. It said Saha was being replaced by Dinesh Karthik in the Indian squad for the third Test at the Wanderers owing to an upper left hamstring tendon injury. This also indicated the team-management had not been “bluffing” after all.

Saha, who set an Indian record for the most number of catches and dismissals in a Test (10) in the series opener at Cape Town, suffered the injury two days before the second Test got underway. And his progress will now be monitored by the BCCI medical team.

Absence felt

Arguably the best wicket-keeper in the world at present, Saha’s absence has been felt in the second Test with Parthiv putting down Hashim Amla off Ishant Sharma, and Faf du Plessis off Ashwin (both in the first innings) and not going for a catch well within his reach when the left-handed Dean Elgar edged Jasprit Bumrah.

And a score of 19 in the first innings here meant Parthiv, so far, has not made much of an impression with the bat either.

Read: Bumrah feels the game is 'still in the balance'

Unless Parthiv comes up with something special here in the rest of the Test, Karthik could well take his place in the XI at the Wanderers. Karthik, who made his Test debut against Australia in Mumbai in 2004, last figured in a Test against Bangladesh at Chittagong, 2010.

A capable back-foot batsman, strong on the cut and the pull, he has been among runs in the domestic cricket across formats. He has also chipped in with useful contributions with the bat in the ODI and Twenty20 matches for India this season. In fact, Karthik impressed for India in the Cape Town Test of 2007, making 63 opening the innings against an attack that included Dale Steyn, Shaun Pollock, Mkhaya Nitini and Jacques Kallis. In the second innings, he batted in the lower middle order and remained unbeaten on an attractive 38.

The 32-year-old Karthik has 1000 runs from 23 Tests at 27.77 apart from snaffling up 51 catches and effecting five stumpings.

Whoever dons the big gloves in the third Test at the Wanderers has to keep wickets with sure hands. A catch dropped at a critical stage may be worth a lot more than a few extra runs scored with the bat.