During his stint as director of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore and as India A coach, Rahul Dravid always groomed youngsters.
It was therefore no surprise that as the Team India head coach, Dravid opted for continuity and included Ishan Kishan in the squad for the World Test Championship final as a replacement for the injured KL Rahul. The uncapped Ishan, who has played 14 ODIs and 27 T20Is, was part of the squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as well.
Rahul will undergo surgery for his right upper thigh injury and subsequently report to the NCA for rehabilitation.
Ishan’s inclusion has shut the door on Wriddhiman Saha, who had staked a claim with his experience and form. Saha’s innings of 81 against Lucknow Super Giants in Ahmedabad on Sunday once again showed his intent and motivation to make a comeback into the national side.
Wriddhiman Saha. Getty Images
Even Virat Kohli couldn’t hide his excitement and penned it down in an Instagram Story. “What a player, @wriddhi,” was how the former captain doffed his hat to the keeper-batter.
With Rishabh Pant out of the reckoning for at least another year, Saha could have proved to be an ideal foil in the team. KS Bharat has taken over the reins of the big gloves in Pant’s absence, but he will take time to grow into his role as a wicketkeeper-batter. The Tests versus Australia at home exposed Bharat’s inexperience and limitations.
The Andhra wicketkeeeper was picked as a back-up for Rahul, who has a good record with the bat in England and was tipped to keep wickets. But Rahul’s forced unavailability will now put the burden of expectations on Bharat or Ishan. The national selectors have gambled upon the wicketkeeper’s berth by ignoring experience and it will be interesting to see how it works.
The WTC final begins on June 7 and the early part of the English summer generally tends to be wet and cold, aiding movement for the pace bowlers. Both Bharat and Ishan have very little experience of playing on such wickets which could be a major handicap in such a high-stakes final.
Ishan has always been a favourite with the team management but his limited exposure to the red ball is a concern. The Jharkhand cricketer played only two Ranji Trophy matches last season, that too as a specialist batter with Kumar Kushagra standing behind the wickets. Overall, Kishan has featured in only 48 first-class matches since his debut in 2014.
Saha, however, kept wickets in all seven matches for Tripura last season. He scored 313 runs at an average of 52.16 in seven innings.
With his 40-Test experience, Saha, 38, is still the best keeper in the country in terms of skill, fitness and reflexes. Though he hasn’t played a Test in England, he would have been better-placed to perform than the likes of Bharat or Kishan.
Saha can only control the controllable and has been performing creditably in the IPL. He deserved that spot in the WTC final squad much like the way Ajinkya Rahane was rewarded for his consistent domestic performances following the injury to Shreyas Iyer. The WTC final is not the place to experiment but the Shiv Sundar Das-led panel has done just that.
While bringing an end to Saha’s career in November 2021, Dravid reminded that he had “deep respect for him and his achievements”. Saha though deserves “honesty and clarity” from the head coach for ignoring his credentials yet again.