Who’s the keeper? Experts pick KS Bharat ahead of Ishan Kishan
Rishabh Pant’s absence due to the horrific car accident last December meant both KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan got places as keeper-batsmen in India’s squad for the home Tests against Australia.
But are any of the two automatic choices in the XI as Pant’s replacement in the opening Test against Australia, which begins in Nagpur on Thursday?
The first-class average of both the cricketers isn’t really staggering. While Bharat averages 37.95, Kishan’s is 38.76. That said, Bharat is a little bit ahead in terms of experience in red-ball cricket, having played 86 matches so far compared to Kishan’s 48.
Besides, the Andhra player comes across as a more specialised wicketkeeper and was also quite sharp behind the stumps as a substitute for an indisposed Wriddhiman Saha during the fourth innings of the India-New Zealand Test in Kanpur late in 2021.
“Bharat had been groomed and earmarked as India’s Test keeper since the time he played for India A. He tried to do his best in those matches and has done well overall in red-ball cricket.
“He has been waiting for his turn and it appears he’ll be getting it in the coming Test,” former chief selector MSK Prasad told The Telegraph on Sunday. “As for Ishan, he needs to wait.”
According to Devang Gandhi, a former national selector who was a part of the Prasad-led panel, Ishan currently is more suited for white-ball cricket.
“Ishan’s red-ball appearances for India A was till 2017. Thereafter, he was predominantly in the white-ball teams. At the same time, it’s been quite some time since he last donned the keeper’s gloves in a first-class game,” Devang said.
Kishan wasn’t there behind the stumps in the two Ranji Trophy games he played this season for Jharkhand, with Kumar Kushagra donning the keeper’s gloves. However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if Kishan is included as a “like-for-like replacement” for Pant, feels Syed Saba Karim.
“Logically, Bharat is the one who should play. But Ishan, too, is capable with the bat and has also done a decent job behind the stumps.
“So if he impresses in the training sessions leading up to the first Test, there’s no harm if the team wants to try him out as Pant’s like-for-like replacement,” Saba Karim, the former BCCI general manager and a former national selector, stated.
Turning pitches are expected in the four Tests and Kishan’s performance with the bat against the New Zealand spinners in the recent limited-overs games wasn’t too inspiring. In fact, since his ODI double-century against Bangladesh, the left-hander totalled only 94 runs in his next nine international innings (all white-ball), averaging only 11.75 which reflects his current form.
The KL option
Sunil Gavaskar, in his column, mentioned KL Rahul as one of the choices for the keeper-batter’s position as that would strengthen India’s middle order once Shreyas Iyer is fit.
But that would be “more out of desperation” as Rahul has stood behind the stumps primarily in the shorter formats, Deep Dasgupta pointed out.
“One requires a different mindset altogether to be a wicketkeeper in Test matches. It’s not just about doing it for some 20 or 50 overs. You may have to stand behind the stumps for an entire day or more,” the former India Test keeper-batsman said.
“I think such a situation may arise only if Bharat fails to make use of his opportunities. They can then think of other options,” Prasad summed it up.