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Saba Karim

Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant | Twitter
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Saba Karim Predicts Rishabh Pant Will Be India’s Biggest Match Winner In Next Few Years

Saba Karim feels Rishabh Pant could emerge as the greatest Indian wicketkeeper-batter in Tests if he is handled well. The southpaw slammed a tenacious century against South Africa on Day 3 of the ongoing Cape Town Test. Rishabh Pant’s unbeaten 100-run knock helped India set a decent 212-run target in the series decider.

Saba Karim said that if handled well Rishabh Pant has the potential to become one of India’s biggest match-winners in the years to come. Former Indian chief selector Saba Karim feels that Rishabh Pant could turn out to be the greatest Indian wicketkeeper-batter in Test cricket provided only if he is handled well.

Rishabh Pant. File | Photo Credit: AFP
Rishabh Pant. File | Photo Credit: AFP

Saba Karim Feels Rishabh Pant Will Be India’s Biggest Match Winner In Forthcoming Years

Rishabh Pant was criticized by fans and experts alike following his extravagant shot selection, which led to his dismissal, in the previous Test. But Saba Karim feels such mistakes are bound to happen and urged everyone to back Rishabh Pant, who he feels has the potential to be a match-winner.

Speaking on YouTube channel, the cricketer-turned-commentator Saba Karim said: “If he is handled well, then he will emerge as the greatest Indian wicketkeeper-batter in Tests.

“We might lose a player like him if we don’t stop criticizing. He will be India’s biggest match winner in the coming years. He is going to make mistakes like he did in the last Test. But if we ostracise him and want him to be dropped, then it is not going to benefit the team.”

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

India was bundled out for 198 runs in their second innings of the third Test. But Rishabh Pant earned widespread appreciation for his gutsy knock under pressure. He proved to be the only saving grace for the visitors on a day when the rest of the Indian batters failed to make an impact. This was Rishabh Pant’s 4th Test ton. He now has Test tons in England, Australia, and South Africa.

Rishabh Pant’s unbeaten 100-run knock came off 139 deliveries and was studded with six fours and four sixes. Despite his best efforts, Team India was bowled out for a mere 198 runs in their second innings.

The keeper-batsman had a lean patch in Test cricket since his last hundred at Ahmedabad against England sat home. In 4-match series in England, he scored just 146 runs in 7 innings while in this ongoing series he scored just 86 runs in 5 innings averaging 17.2 before his unbeaten hundred in the last innings of the ongoing series.

Nikhil Chopra Feels Rishabh Pant Can Be More Successful Than Adam Gilchrist

Rishabh Pant has often drawn comparisons with legendary Australian keeper-batter Adam Gilchrist owing to his fearless approach at the crease. But former India spinner Nikhil Chopra feels Rishabh Pant has the potential to be more successful than Adam Gilchrist.

Adam Gilchrist (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Adam Gilchrist (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Nikhil Chopra said: “If Rishabh Pant does justice to his talent, then he can also be more successful than Adam Gilchrist. He has often scored runs under pressure and he often plays with an approach of winning matches.”

Nikhil Chopra pointed out how Rishabh Pant has often bailed India out of trouble with his inspiring knocks. He also praised Rishabh Pant for being calculative at the crease against the South African bowlers.

Nikhil Chopra noted that while the southpaw undertook a cautious approach against the seamers, he upped the ante against spinner Keshav Maharaj.

Rishabh Pant had scored 274 runs at an average of 68.50 in five innings for India against Australia in 2020/21 Down Under. The keeper continued his form against England at home where he hit 270 runs at an average of 54.00 as he was the second-highest run-getter for India in the series.

Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant
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Reetinder Singh Sodhi Feels It Won’t Be A Big Deal If Rishabh Pant Is Dropped From 3rd Test For His Mistakes

Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes it will not be too harsh if keeper Rishabh Pant is dropped from Team India’s playing XI for the third Test against South Africa.

Rishabh Pant was dismissed while playing an ungainly shot even before he opened his account in India’s second innings of the Johannesburg Test. Rahul Dravid mentioned in the post-match press conference that the team management would speak to the dashing wicketkeeper-batter about the timing of his shot selection.

Rishabh Pant. (Photo Source: BCCI)
Rishabh Pant. (Photo Source: BCCI)

Reetinder Singh Sodhi: Superstar Rishabh Pant Should Be Made To Sit Out The Next Match As A Lesson For Playing Bad Shot

During a discussion, Reetinder Singh Sodhi was asked if the Indian team should persist with Rishabh Pant under the circumstances. Rishabh Pant played a reckless shot even before he opened his account in the second innings of the Johannesburg Test. He danced down the track off the third delivery he faced from Kagiso Rabada and played an ugly hoick, only to get an edge to the wicket-keeper.

He responded: “There was a time when if you played a bad shot and your team suffered because of that, you were made to sit out the next match as a lesson. That is not the case now, Rishabh Pant is your superstar.”

Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

The former India all-rounder added that it would not be a big deal if Rishabh Pant is left out of the side.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi reasoned: “But whether a big or small player makes a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. Rishabh Pant would have been spoken to a lot and it will not be a huge thing even if he is made to sit out as a lesson because these mistakes are happening repeatedly.”

The match was intriguingly poised when Rishabh Pant walked out to bat in the second innings at the Wanderers. However, his rash dismissal handed over the advantage to the Proteas, who subsequently went on to win the Test match and level the series.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi also believes that leaving out Ajinkya Rahane would be a big call for the tourists. Reetinder Singh Sodhi further opined that if Ajinkya Rahane gets a chance, given the rough patch he is going through, it would be a ‘lifeline’ for the Mumbai batter.

Saba Karim Expressed A Contrary View To That Of Reetinder Singh Sodhi

Saba Karim, however, expressed a contrary view to that of Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

He said: “He [Rishabh Pant] should definitely play. Has any big cricketer not played a shot like this before and gotten dismissed because of that? It used to happen in a different era, 20-25 years ago.”

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

The former selector highlighted that Rishabh Pant is a blessing for Team India and that the youngster would learn from his mistakes.

Saba Karim explained: “This is how you learn. You will have to talk to him and make that player understand, so that learns a lot from this. He is a huge asset to the team. We forget very quickly, would we have won the series in Australia if this player had not made runs.”

Rishabh Pant has played a significant role in some of Team India’s most memorable wins in the last year or so. However, the flamboyant cricketer has averaged just 19.23 with the bat in his last seven Tests, which has added to Team India’s middle-order woes.

Rishabh Pant had a lean patch in Test cricket since his last hundred at Ahmedabad. In 4-match series in England, he scored just 146 runs in 7 innings while in this ongoing series he scored just 59 runs in 4 innings.

Rishabh Pant had scored 274 runs at an average of 68.50 in five innings for India against Australia in 2020/21 Down Under. The keeper continued his form against England at home where he hit 270 runs at an average of 54.00 as he was the second-highest run-getter for India in the series.

Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
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Reetinder Singh Sodhi Believes It Would Be A Big Call If India Leaves Out Ajinkya Rahane To Include Now Fit Virat Kohli

Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes it would be a ‘big call’ if the Indian team leaves out senior batsman Ajinkya Rahane from their XI for the third and final Test against South Africa.

Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, who have both struggled for form of late, scored attacking half-centuries in the second innings of the Wanderers Test against the Proteas. Hanuma Vihari, who played that Test as a replacement for Virat Kohli (ruled out for back spasms), also stood out with fighting knocks in both innings.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi: One Out Of Ajinkya Rahane Or Hanuma Vihari Will Play

In the 2nd Test, Cheteshwar Pujara scored 53 runs off 86 deliveries and stitched together a 111-run partnership for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane. It was also Cheteshwar Pujara’s fastest Test fifty away from home. Ajinkya Rahane played a fluent knock of 58 runs off 78 balls but India fans expect more from the duo. Ajinkya Rahane averaged a lowly 20.82 with the bat in 2021.  Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t scored a hundred since January 2019.

Now, former Indian cricketer, Reetinder Singh Sodhi has opined that only one out of Hanuma Vihari or Ajinkya Rahane might feature in the Indian playing XI if Virat Kohli returns back for the 3rd Test. Reetinder Singh Sodhi feels that Hanuma Vihari warrants a place in the Indian playing XI for the third Test.

During a discussion, Reetinder Singh Sodhi was asked about the selection dilemma for Team India, to which he replied: “If you talk about the combination, one out of Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari will play. It will be a big call if you don’t play Ajinkya Rahane because Hanuma Vihari has not done anything wrong; he played a very pivotal knock.”

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari (AP Photo)

The former India all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi  added that Ajinkya Rahane would be slightly fortunate to retain his place in the playing XI, explaining: “Rahane has also scored runs, where the form has been seen. So it will be a huge decision, and if Rahane plays, it could be a lifeline for him because somewhere or the other, he has been struggling. He will be able to cement his place once again if he wins the decider for the Indian team.”

Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid opted to stick with Ajinkya Rahane ahead of Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer for the first Test against South Africa, despite the former Indian vice-captain’s indifferent recent returns. With the 33-year-old scoring a fifty in Johannesburg, it is unlikely he will be dropped now.

Former India cricketer Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes that leaving out Ajinkya Rahane would be a big call for the tourists. Reetinder Singh Sodhi further opined that if Ajinkya Rahane gets a chance, given the rough patch he is going through, it would be a ‘lifeline’ for the Mumbai batter.

Saba Karim: Biggest Question Posed Will Be Team Combination As To Whether Ajinkya Rahane Or Hanuma Vihari Will Be In Playing XI

Saba Karim was asked about Virat Kohli’s biggest challenge on his probable return as captain for the 3rd Test and he replied it’s team composition as Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane are fighting for a middle-order berth.

He replied: “The biggest question that will be posed is the team composition. Virat will have to decide with Rahul Dravid what the XI should be. The big question is, because Virat Kohli is coming back into the XI, whether you will leave out Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari.”

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

The former India selector added that a choice will also have to be made between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav if Mohammed Siraj is unavailable.

Saba Karim observed: “Siraj is injured at the moment, so whom will you play instead of him. I feel if you look towards experience, you should definitely play Ishant Sharma. But things will be decided based on who is bowling better between Umesh and Ishant in the nets.”

Mohammed Siraj suffered a hamstring injury on Day 1 of the Johannesburg Test. Although he returned to the field and bowled a few overs, the team management is unlikely to take a risk with him for the all-important series decider. The third and final test will begin on January 11 at Cape Town as India will be eying for their maiden series win in South Africa. India’s next assignment in Tests will be a 2-match series against Sri Lanka at home in February-March.

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
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We Are Very Late In Reacting To It- Saba Karim Opines On Indian Middle Order Woes

Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim believes that fifties by Pujara and Rahane are not enough to secure their places as India expects bigger scores from the experienced duo than mere fifties.

On Thursday South Africa beat India by 7 wickets at Johannesburg to level the series by 1-1 with one test to go. The proteas skipper Dean Elgar (96*) led from the front to chase down the target of 240 on Day-4. Earlier Pujara and Rahane scored the fifties in India’s 2nd innings to keep them alive in the game with a 111-run partnership. Notable that Virat Kohli missed out on this test due to an upper back spasm.

We Are Very Late In Reacting To It- Saba Karim Opines On Indian Middle Order Woes 1
Saba Karim. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

“They will score runs sometimes because they obviously have experience but we need to think if they are doing enough”-Saba Karim

However, Saba Karim believes that the fifties (from Rahane and Pujara) are not enough to secure their places and India needs to look for alternatives.  He argued that the duo is capable to score 40-50 runs in every 3-4 innings with so much experience they have.

“I believe we are very late in reacting to the fact that our middle-order, which is considered a backbone in the batting lineup, has been struggling for years now. It is important to address as soon as possible. You have so much experience, you can easily score 40-50 runs after every 3-4 innings but does that mean we are moving in the right direction?” Karim said on the Khelneeti podcast.

Pujara hasn’t scored a hundred since January 2019. In fact, since January 2021, Pujara scored only 758 runs in 28 innings with an average of 28.07 while Rahane scored 537 runs in 25 innings with an average of 21.48 which included only 7 and 3 fifties respectively.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

“We have to prepare for the new Test cycle. We have to qualify for the finals. Do you need to take those harsh steps if you want to reach there? This is what Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli and the selectors. (They need to decide) whether the batting order with which we are playing is giving us the full value or not, can we bring some youngsters in their place who has good experience in domestic cricket, will he add more value or not,” said Saba Karim.

Hanuma Vihari got a chance in the second Test match in place of Virat Kohli and he scored an unbeaten 40 in the second innings as he was left stranded.

“Whether it is Rahane or Pujara, they will score runs sometimes because they obviously have experience. But we need to think if they are doing enough and whether any other player can deliver better than them,” he added.

The third and final test will begin on January 11 at Cape Town as India will be eying for their maiden series win in South Africa. India’s next assignment in Tests will be a 2-match series against Sri Lanka at home in February-March.

Also read David Warner Urged Critics To Empathize With Virat Kohli Who Is Going Through A Lean Patch In Int’l Cricket

KL Rahul Image Source : GETTY IMAGES
KL Rahul Image Source : GETTY IMAGES
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KL Rahul, Captain In 3 Match ODI Series Against South Africa Can Take The Team Forward: Saba Karim

KL Rahul, the 29-year-old who has already proved his batting prowess in all three formats, was named the captain of India’s ODI team for the three-match series against South Africa. The ODI captaincy switch from Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma justifiably drew more eyeballs before KL Rahul stepped into the picture. Rohit Sharma was initially set to lead the ODI team in its first overseas assignment of the year but failed to recover from a hamstring injury for which the reins were handed to KL Rahul.

Rohit Sharma was named ODI captain earlier this month replacing Virat Kohli, was to travel to South Africa as vice-captain for the Test series which began on December 26 but a hamstring injury during training ruled him out. He had taken charge as T20I captain against New Zealand last month.

KL Rahul
KL Rahul-Reuters.

KL Rahul Deserves Captaincy Role For He Is A Player Who Can Take The Team Forward: Saba Karim

Ex-India wicketkeeper and former BCCI selector Saba Karim has also backed KL Rahul for the leadership role, saying the Karnataka lad’s appointment will augur well for the team.

“This is going to be a very good year for Rahul; that is my wish for him. He deserves that because he is a player who can take the team forward. He knows his place is assured in this team; he is a multi-format player,” said Saba Karim.

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

“The classy knock he played in the Test match; it was extremely enjoyable watching that. I feel he is a player who can adapt his batting to every format, and that is why this responsibility has been given to KL Rahul.”

KL Rahul will look to continue his rich vein of form with the bat, having scored a ton in the Test series opener against South Africa. The right-handed dashing opening batsman scored 123 & 23 in Centurion to help India record their first-ever Test win at the venue.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi: KL Rahul Deserved Captaincy

Reetinder Singh Sodhi also reiterated that KL Rahul’s “multi-format” facet and his performance for Punjab Kings has helped him evolve as a captaincy candidate. KL Rahul has been leading Punjab Kings since 2020 but has failed to inspire the side into the playoffs in his two seasons as captain. KL Rahul won the orange cap scoring 670 runs at an average of 55.83 in IPL 2020 and followed it up by scoring 626 runs averaging 62.6 in 13 IPL 2021 games.

In the 2021 IPL, he was the third-highest run-getter, but unfortunately, failed to inspire his franchise to a title. KL Rahul has been one of the best openers in IPL since 2018 and scored 659, 593, 670, and 626 runs in the past four seasons, respectively.

“He (Rahul) is a big player. As Saba said, he is a multi-format player, and I think he has an insatiable appetite for runs, whichever format he plays – Test cricket, T20s, or ODIs. He excelled for the Punjab Kings in the IPL last season, made brilliant runs,” he said.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

“His bat is not stopping in Test cricket. So he definitely deserved captaincy. Test cricket is still left in South Africa, but we hope that the ODI captaincy suits him, and he keeps on scoring runs like this because he can be a legend of the game,” he added.

After India’s dominant performance in the 1st Test at Centurion, the action now shifts to Johannesburg where the Virat Kohli-led unit will look to seal the country’s maiden Test series win in the Rainbow nation. The second Test between India and South Africa begins on January 3 at the Wanderers Stadium.

saba karim

Saba Karim Surprised With Selectors’ Call To Appoint Jasprit Bumrah As Vice-Captain

Former BCCI selector Saba Karim said that he was hoping that Rishabh Pant would get the nod for the vice-captaincy role but the selectors thought otherwise. On Friday, BCCI announced an 18-man squad for an ODI series against South Africa with KL Rahul as captain and Jasprit Bumrah as his deputy. Notable that Rohit Sharma, who was appointed as a new white-ball captain for India, hasn’t recovered from his injury yet so he was unavailable for the tour.

Karim pointed out Rishabh Pant’s success as Delhi Capitals captain in IPL and also said that the wicketkeeper is a good reader of the game.

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

“I was extremely surprised, I was not expecting Jasprit Bumrah to be made the vice-captain. I was hoping that Rishabh Pant had more chances to be made the vice-captain because he is also a multi-format player, he plays all three formats. Pant’s performances as captain of the Delhi Capitals have been very good. We are seeing how he reads the match, he has a lot of game awareness,” Saba Karim said.

The former wicketkeeper also said that there is no doubt about Bumrah’s ability but he (Bumrah) never captained the side at any level. So that inexperience might be a hurdle if India sees him as a leader for the future.

Rishabh Pant (Photo Source: Disney+Hotstar VIP)
Rishabh Pant. (Photo Source: Disney+Hotstar VIP)

Jasprit Bumrah has the talent, his role is very important for the Indian team but he has not captained anywhere till now. So it is slightly surprising. I was feeling that Rishabh Pant was the first candidate as vice-captain.” he added

Rishabh Pant led Delhi Capitals in the last IPL season. Out of 16 games in the last season, Delhi Capitals won 7 games and lost 7 which includes 2 losses in the playoffs as they finished as table-topper in the league stage under his leadership.

He was stand-in captain as regular skipper Shreyas Iyer was recovering from the shoulder injury but with an exceptional record in the first half, the team management decided to stick with him even when Iyer made a comeback in the UAE leg.

The ODI series between India and South Africa will begin on January 19 at Paarl.

Also, Read Some BCCI officials Didn’t Want Me And MS Dhoni May Have Supported That- Harbhajan Singh

Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE

Rohit Sharma And Virat Kohli Have That Kind Of Camaraderie And Respect To Work Together – Saba Karim On Split Captaincy

Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim believes that Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have that kind of mutual respect to work together even though they will play under each other in multiple formats. Earlier in the month, the BCCI announced that Rohit Sharma would take over the ODI captaincy from Virat Kohli as the selectors wanted one captain in both white-ball formats.

After the T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli resigned from the T20I captaincy citing the workload in all three formats. Though he had the ambitions to continue as ODI captain yet the selectors thought otherwise. 

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma © BCCI
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma © BCCI

“India hasn’t had this tradition of split captaincy but we have seen former captains playing under new captain”

The former BCCI selector Saba Karim believes that the split captaincy would work fine for India as both (Rohit and Virat) have that kind of camaraderie and can take Indian cricket forward under the guidance of the coach Rahul Dravid.

“I do believe Rohit and Virat have that kind of camaraderie and respect. And they can always fall back on Rahul Dravid for help. This should work quite well for the Indian side,” Saba Karim spoke to NDTV in an interview.

Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli (Image Credit: Twitter)
Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli (Image Credit: Twitter)

Karim said that split captaincy will also help to manage the workload for the duo as they represent India in all three formats. 

“I think this is a wise decision as the workload gets too much at times and more so as India are preparing for World Cups. The T20 one in Australia next year and then the 50-over World Cup in 2023 at home. So, you need to have a fresh mind to offer more to the side,” 

Karim also doesn’t see any issue if Virat Kohli will have to play under Rohit Sharma’s captaincy. The former wicketkeeper, who played one Test and 34 ODIs for India, gave the examples of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid who played under MS Dhoni for quite some time.

“Although we haven’t had this tradition of split captaincy in Indian cricket but we have seen former captains playing under new captains. It has happened in the past for so many years.

“We had Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid and even MS Dhoni for that matter when he retired from Test cricket, he did play under Virat Kohli in ODIs and T20Is for some time. If the former and the new captain have respect and are able to understand each other for the betterment of the team then I don’t see any issue at all,” said Saba Karim.

India will begin their South Africa campaign with the test series starting on December 26 at Centurion.

Also read There Was No Need Of Any Public Statement From BCCI President- Sanjay Manjrekar

saba karim

“England Can’t Pick Both James Anderson And Stuart Broad In Same XI”- Saba Karim

Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim suggested England choose one between James Anderson and Stuart Broad and bring Mark Wood back if they want to turn things around at Melbourne. The visitors are currently trailing by 0-2 and the possibility of another whitewash looks likely with the way Australia have dominated the series.

England team management has been criticized severely for not reading conditions well in the first two tests. In the first, they went without Anderson and Broad and chose to bowl first on a gloomy morning. And as they faced a 9-wicket thrashing, they tried to overcompensate by playing both of them in the Adelaide Test. However, it made much difference with the end result.

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

As both the teams gear up for the Boxing Day challenge, Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim suggested England to bring an express pace bowler like Mark Wood.

“Whatever conditions there were in Brisbane and Adelaide maybe they didn’t select the right XI. They need to get more wicket-taking options up their sleeves. I think the biggest difference between Australia and England fast bowlers is speed. The average speed of Australian speedsters is 140-145 but the average speed of England pacers is in the mid or early 130s. On bouncy hard pitches you need bowlers with pace to unsettle the batters,” Karim told NDTV in an interview.

With 635 Tests in his name, James Anderson hasn’t had much success down under. This is 5th Australian tour for the veteran pacer as he picked 63 wickets in 19 Tests with lone fifer. The story for Stuart Broad is pretty much the same as the 35-year old picked only 35 wickets in 13 Tests down under with lone fifer.

England Test skipper Joe Root backs James Anderson , Twitter
England Test skipper Joe Root with James Anderson, Twitter

“On bouncy hard pitches, you need bowlers with pace to unsettle the batters”

“James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s performance in Australia for the past several years has not been up to the mark. If you have to play, then pick only one of them and bring someone like Mark Wood. I think the problem England faces is that they don’t really have many options who bowl over 140. Jofra Archer is injured. But you need at least two three seamers who can bowl at 140-plus regularly on these Australian conditions. Whom do they have in the squad? Again, it’s Craig Overton. He’s a good bowler but in these conditions, I do have my doubts,” he stated.

However, Saba Karim is still optimistic about England’s chances. The former BCCI selector believes that England can make a comeback if they pick the right XI.

“I do expect them to make a comeback but it’s going to be a tall order for England.  Believe if they can make some changes in the XI and be more aggressive while batting as well as bowling, they can come back. I think it’s important they focus on the Boxing Day Test match for now because if they look too far ahead, that may be a big problem,” Karim said.

The third Ashes test will begin on December 26 in Melbourne.

Also Read: Changing Captain Or Coach Won’t Solve The Issue, England Has Got A System Problem, Says Steve Harmison

Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
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Saba Karim Opens Up On The Struggles Of Virat Kohli Both On And Off The Field

Saba Karim believes Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli’s battles on the field of play are more difficult than the ones the Indian Test skipper is fighting outside the ground. Virat Kohli has endured a prolonged lean run with the bat over the last couple of years.

His problems have been aggravated with his removal as Team India’s ODI skipper and his differences with the BCCI’s top management also coming to the fore. Controversy erupted in Indian cricket earlier this month when Virat Kohli was removed – rather unceremoniously – as the captain in the ODIs after he stepped down as T20I skipper after the 2021 T20I World Cup concluded.

Saba Karim. – The Hindu- File photo of former wicketkeeper 
Saba Karim. – The Hindu- File photo of former wicketkeeper

Saba Karim: The Fight On The Ground Is Most Difficult As Virat Kohli Too Realizes That If He Scores The Big Runs, Players Around Him Will Contribute

During a discussion, Saba Karim was asked if Virat Kohli has a bigger challenge in front of him now than what he faced during Team India’s last trip to South Africa in 2018.

He replied: “The fight on the ground is the most difficult and Virat Kohli knows that as well. He also realizes that in the last one or two years, not only his but even the top order’s form has not been good. The stability or the partnerships required have not been seen.”

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli[photo: Twitter]
The former India wicketkeeper-batter highlighted that Virat Kohli is sweating it out in the nets as he knows the importance of runs flowing from his willow.

Saba Karim elaborated: “He also knows that because he comes in to bat at No. 4, if his bat fires and he scores the big runs, the players around him will also start contributing. And that is why I feel, his preparations should be perfect and he is putting more time in the nets.”

Virat Kohli has been seen having extended net sessions in South Africa. The Indian Test skipper will be desperate to end his long wait for an international century. Since November 2019, the Indian Test skipper hasn’t scored a century in any of the formats.

Virat Kohli will be touring South Africa for the third time in his career, having scored 558 runs in the nation during his last two visits, at 55.80 with two centuries and two fifties. Notably, India hasn’t won a Test series in the rainbow nation in their previous 7 attempts.

Saba Karim Feels The Combination Of Rahul Dravid-Virat Kohli Will Be A Good One

Saba Karim was also asked about the fact that Virat Kohli is spending considerable time with new coach Rahul Dravid in the nets.

He responded: “The advantage with Rahul Dravid is that he can tell Virat how the bowler is targeting him, what the bowler’s thinking is. You observe all that while sitting outside as a coach and then you can tell all that to the player who is in the middle.”

Rahul Dravid is working closely with Virat Kohli [P/C: BCCI/Twitter]
Rahul Dravid is working closely with Virat Kohli [P/C: BCCI/Twitter]

The former India selector concluded by painting a positive picture about the partnership between Virat Kohli and new coach Rahul Dravid.

Saba Karim explained: “With the experience Rahul Dravid has, he knows very well what needs to be said and what is not required to be said. When a player has reached that level, he learns a lot on his own and finds solutions according to himself and Rahul Dravid will step in where the solutions are not found. That is why I feel this combination will be good.”

Rahul Dravid’s vast experience of playing in South African conditions should hold the Indian team in good stead. The former batting great was also the first Indian skipper to win a Test match in the Rainbow Nation.

Virat Kohli has amassed 7801 runs in 97 Tests so far averaging 50.66 but after the 2019 Bangladesh series at home, where he scored his last Test ton, his average didn’t cross 35 in any of the next 6 series. While he averaged only 19.33 in 3 Tests in 2020, he averaged 28.41 in 10 Tests in 2021 and will certainly look to make amends.

Virat Kohli in action during the third day of the WTC final against New Zealand. (File)
Virat Kohli in action during the third day of the WTC final against New Zealand. (File)

India Will Start As Firm Favorites In South Africa, Believes Saba Karim

Former Indian wicketkeeper Saba Karim backed Virat Kohli & co. to win their first-ever series in the rainbow nation. Notable that India never won a Test series in their previous 7 outings in South Africa. The former selector also believes that this team has the strong bench strength to overcome all kinds of injury woes.

In an interview with Sports Tiger, Saba Karim called it a golden opportunity for India. South Africa is the only country where India hadn’t won a Test series yet though they manage to draw the series once in 2010-11 under the captain MS Dhoni. In the first tour in 1992-93, India lost the 4-match series by 0-1.

For the first test win in the protea nation, India had to wait for 14 long years as they beat the hosts by 123 runs at Johannesburg under the leadership of Rahul Dravid.

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

India never won a Test series in South Africa before

However, Saba Karim opined that this Indian team is much stronger as compared to previous teams. The former wicketkeeper also predicted the scoreline heavily in favour of India.

World Test Championship, India
Indian test team[photo: Twitter]
“Either 2-0 or 2-1 (in Tests). In ODI we are anyway a far superior side,” Saba Karim said.

He also gave the example of Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21 when India managed to win the series despite losing their core bowling attack due to injuries.

“It is immensely strong (bench strength) and proof of that was shown by them in Australia. We won the fourth Test without I think five or six of our regular players. That shows the kind of strength that India have got in our reserves. And I expect the same this time around and it is our golden opportunity for us as well have an experienced set-up. Plus we have some potentially exciting youngsters who are coming through to the team. It will be an ideal combination for us to do well in South Africa,” he added further.

After reaching South Africa, India started their first training session on Saturday. The first test of the 3-match series will start from December 26 at Centurion.

Also Read: KL Rahul Named As India’s Test Vice-Captain For South Africa Tour

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