After playing in five straight Tests in India, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was dropped for the series opening match against New Zealand in Wellington despite his excellent performance behind the stumps. In his place, Rishabh Pant, who had last played a Test during the West Indies tour, was drafted into the playing XI.

The decision to exclude Saha came as a surprise considering he has been repeatedly rated as the best ‘wicketkeeper’ in the format by captain Virat Kohli. And with Pant’s struggles in international cricket, it Saha seemed to be an obvious choice.

India head coach Ravi Shastri has explained the decision saying the conditions and Pant’s batting worked in the youngster’s favour.

“We went for Saha in India because there would be a lot of spin, and on turning tracks where bounce could be uneven, you need an experienced keeper and Saha is, to be honest, one of the best around,” Shastri said on Friday.

He continued, “But when you come here, there is not much of spin bowling. Emphasis is on fast bowling and then the batting becomes a key factor. Plus the fact that he (Pant) is a left-hander, and an aggressive batsman lower down the order. That tilted the scales in his favour here.”

Pant scored 19 and 25 across in the two innings of the Test apart from claiming two catches as India lost the match by 10 wickets. The second Test will be played at the Hagely Oval from February 29.

Meanwhile, Ishant Sharma has complained of ankle pain and will likely miss the second Test meaning Umesh Yadav could come in as his replacement.