KS Bharat or Ishan Kishan?

Ishan Kishan (left) or KS Bharat - Who will make the cut? (AFP Photo)

Ishan Kishan (left) or KS Bharat – Who will make the cut? (AFP Photo)

Rishabh Pant’s absence from the Indian team means India will continue to have the dilemma in the Tests: KS Bharat’s neat wicket-keeping or Ishan Kishan’s intent with the bat?

Ishan Kishan had an extended session in the nets on March 7. Coach Rahul Dravid kept an eye on the young wicketkeeper-batter as he batted in different nets. When Ishan was honing his batting skills under watch of the Indian coach, KS Bharat was on the main square of the ground. He first underwent wicket-keeping drills and then had a little feel of the venue with a light batting session on the side strip.

Kishan or Bharat? Batting intent or wicketkeeping skills?

The management went ahead with the safer option in Bharat on turners which were presented for the first three Tests. Returns with the bat weren’t encouraging but the inexperienced stumper did a more than decent job with the gloves on. It’s not easy to keep on these strips with raging turn and variable bounce. With so much spin bowling in the series so far, the wicketkeepers have hardly got breathing space behind the stumps.

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With Ahmedabad expected to roll out a better surface than the first three Tests, there would have been a temptation within the Indian camp to beef up on the intent quotient in the middle-order. And on those lines, a lot of attention was paid on how the two wicketkeeper-batters went about their business on match eve.

Bharat was first to enter the practice area and had KL Rahul for company in the adjacent net. Soon, Kishan joined the training squad in the area and had a hit. Not many playing XI cues to pick from how the events unfolded but India captain Rohit Sharma gave some clarity after coach Dravid dead batted the matter.

The Indian team had faced a similar situation some time back when Wriddhiman Saha was the preferred choice at home, for his glove work on turners, and Rishabh Pant’s batting helped him get the nod on overseas assignments. Pant’s improvement with the gloves and more domination with the bat helped him become the automatic choice both home and away, and now his absence posed a headache in Tests.

“Look, honestly, when you are speaking about Pant, we all know what he can do with the bat. Also, the keeping, last couple of years he has kept so well for us on turning wickets and all of that. He’s a big miss. When we knew that he’s not going to be available for us, that was one of the reasons we got Ishan (Kishan) in. He’s a left-hander, can play attacking (cricket),” said Rohit on Pant’s absence and Kishan’s inclusion in the Test squad.

Pant and Kishan are two batters in similar mould but the wicketkeeping skills of the former have gone up several notches in the years gone by and he has succeeded in conditions assisting both spin and swing. Kishan is an untested commodity, especially when it comes to wicketkeeping on turning tracks, and that’s where Bharat edged the youngster for the spot. Yes, the 57 runs in five innings aren’t great by any stretch of imagination but even the greats have struggled in these conditions.

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“Speaking about (KS) Bharat, he has spent a lot of time in domestic cricket, Ranji Trophy, India A, zonals and he has scored a lot of runs. So, it will be slightly unfair to judge him on these kinds of wickets. Especially if someone is making their debut, you have got to give him enough room or innings for him to set himself up for a big score. That is important, it’s something I spoke to him before the start of the series as well. ‘Do not worry about what kind of pitches we will play, you will get enough time to prove yourself because these pitches are not easy’. If you want to play on pitches like that, you have got to be ready for guys failing in some of the innings as well. Then, you have got to back those guys, that’s what we are doing with KS.

“KS, like I said, he’s got runs in domestic circuit. Lots of experience in domestic cricket, good keeper, spoke to Ishan also. When he gets his chance, he will get a number of games. We will not drop him after playing just two. It will be unfair,” said Rohit.

Had Ahmedabad been the turner like those we saw in the first three Tests, there would have been no noise around the wicketkeeping spot but a better surface opens up more options and adds to the confusion in the Indian camp.

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