Team India is faced with a familiar dilemma in the absence of Rishabh Pant — who between KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan should keep wickets in the West Indies.
In his five Test appearances so far, Bharat aggregates a meagre 129 runs at an average of 18.42. Behind the stumps, the 29-year-old may not have done too badly, but hasn’t done anything staggering either.
Modern Test cricket requires a keeper to be solid with the bat as well. Bharat inspires little confidence.
Barring his unbeaten 23 on a difficult wicket in New Delhi in the second Test when Australia toured India earlier this year, Bharat has had a tough time with the bat. His highest Test score of 44 came against in the same series on a dead track in Ahmedabad, where the Test meandered to a draw.
And then in the World Test Championship final, he looked clueless in front of Scott Boland in the first innings and was barely impressive during his 41-ball 23 in the second.
India do have the option of benching Bharat and selecting Kishan, a left-hander who has a greater range of strokes.
But the 24-year-old is yet to play Test cricket and last featured in a first-class game back in December. His first-class average (38.76) after 48 matches isn’t outstanding either.
Besides, he hasn’t looked too comfortable against the moving ball even in Indian conditions and with the keeping gloves, he’s yet to be seen taking a blinder of a catch or effecting a brilliant stumping.
“In terms of continuity, Bharat should get another chance,” former national selector Devang Gandhi told The Telegraph on Tuesday. “He has played a few Tests, which means he has gained a bit of experience.”
The intra-squad game ahead of the first Test should also give the team management some idea about the keeper-batter’s slot, Devang feels. “If Bharat looked sharp with the bat as well as behind the stumps in the warm-up game, I feel he should be persisted with, at least for the first Test.
“But if he hasn’t and Ishan, on the other hand, did well in both areas, it’s fair then to choose him over Bharat. Yes, Ishan hasn’t played a red-ball game for some time, but he got the time to prepare as he has been in the squad since the WTC final,” Devang argued.
Syed Saba Karim, an ex-selector and also a former BCCI general manager, firmly believes Bharat deserves more opportunities. “He did a pretty decent job as a keeper in the WTC final in English conditions.
“At the same time, when you’ve picked him, you’ve got to groom him so that he’s more confident when out there in the middle. He should be given a little more time,” Karim said.