Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant will be picked in the XI for the opening Test of the four-match series against England, India captain Virat Kohli said in Chennai on Thursday.

Wriddhiman Saha has been preferred in the past in home Test matches by India but after his heroics in Australia, Pant is set to start the series as the gloveman for the hosts.

The big-ticket series, which will decide New Zealand’s opponents for the World Test Championship final, will begin from Friday. Usually, the more experienced Saha is preferred in home Test matches because of his ability as a keeper against spin but Pant was a standout performer in India’s Test series win in Australia last month.

“Rishabh Pant will start (in the first Test). He is in good headspace. He has worked hard on his game and fitness,” Kohli said at the pre-match press conference.

“He made a impact performance for us recently and is high on confidence. He will continue to be backed, can be a consistent match-winner for us.”

Pant’s swashbuckling 89 not out in the last Test in Brisbane propelled his team to an incredible 2-1 series win over Australia recently, coming days after he nearly saw India home with a fine 97 in the third match in Sydney.

Pant grabbed the opportunity with both hands after Saha’s failure in India’s humiliating defeat in the first Test in Adelaide.

Giving an indication into the combination India might prefer in the upcoming matches against England, considered as one of the world’s most balanced sides, Kohli said, “The focus will be on bowlers who can also bat.”

Speaking about his deputy Ajinkya Rahane, who masterminded India’s memorable come-from-behind series triumph in Australia after the regular captain’s departure for the birth of his child, Kohli said both of them share a “great camaraderie”.

With PTI Inputs