Wicketkeeping is an area where India is going through a transition in all formats. For ODIs and T20s MS Dhoni continues to be the 1st choice, though a sizable section of Media and cricket fans thinks differently. However it is widely felt that Dhoni will call it quits after World cup 2019. In any case his batting has slowed down in recent times and though he can still play the match winning knocks occasionally, his slow strike rates specially against spin has been often causing some worries, specially when India are in a run chase. Further,the ever increasing presence of Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik’s excellent recent T20 strike rate and form has already started to raise question marks on Dhoni’s future in T20 format.
Dinesh Karthik has made a comeback in last one year and had a great contribution in India winning the Nidahas Trophy scoring 29 notout off 8 balls to get India out of jail against Bangladesh in finals. He also had an outstanding IPL. However he was playing as a batsman when Dhoni is in the same Indian team as keeper. Karthik did play in 1st 2 Tests vs England when Saha ,the 1st choice Test keeper was unfit, but he didnt live up to his best game and hence had to make way for Pant in remaining 3 tests. Hence at this point Karthik’s future in Tests and ODIs look a bit under the cloud. However I believe that he is still a big force to reckon with in T20 internationals due to his innovative attacking batting and high strike rate and so should be retained in shortest format to utilise his current good form.
Parthiv Patel did make a comeback to test cricket in 2016 at home vs England and was the 2nd keeper to Saha in South Africa tour. However when he got his chance after Saha’s injury,he didnt backup his selection with enough runs and dropped few catches,and hence not considered for next series.
Wriddhiman Saha, India’s number 1 test keeper played last in the South Africa series and took 10 dismissals behind stumps to create an Indian record in the 1st test, after which ,he picked up an injury ,then played IPL and suffered a shoulder injury and is still under rehabilitation and so effectively out of contention for Australia tour . After Saha gets cured ,he has to first get back to match fitness and then need to perform at domestic level to make a comeback to national side.
Thus ,as far as shorter formats are concerned. Dhoni is still considered as main keeper but things may change after World Cup 2019. Rishabh Pant with his aggressive batting should also be playing all shorter formats ,even if as a batsman only . Once Dhoni quits,Pant should be the 1st keeper in ODIs and Ishan Kishen of Jharkhand can be his deputy and should also play fair number of matches in ODIs to give Pant some relief as and when required as Pant will also be keeping in tests. Kishen is an aggressive batsman, improving day by day and has played a couple of vital innings in ongoing Vijay Hazare trophy captaining the Jharkhand team. . The 20 year old youngster has so far has a decent record as under at domestic level.
Ishan Kishan : Mat Inns NO Runs HS Avg SR 100 50 CT ST
First Class 33 57 4 2127 273 40.13 67 4 11 59 9
List A 35 35 3 1286 139 40.18 90 2 8 36 1
T20s 55 52 0 1194 67 22.96 129 0 6 28 6
He had a good IPL 2018 playing some blinders opening the batting, a memorable innings being a 60-odd in 21 balls vs KKR at Eden Gardens. Therefore both in ODIs and T20s Kishan can be the 2nd keeper. In T20s Dinesh Kartick should be the 1st keeper for a while as his recent T20 record as a keeper-batsman is outstanding and Pant can play as a specialist batter in T20s absolving him of keeping duties in all formats.
Now, question will b asked of another keeper candidate Sanju Samson, 23. Samson has been in Indian circuit much longer than Kishan and Pant. He is the best batsman in terms of technique amongst all keepers but if he wants to keep in any format in India colours, he must keep in all domestic matches . However in IPL in last 2 seasons ,he played only as a specialist batsman. Wicketkeeping is a specialist job, so candidates who are keeping in all matches should come into consideration 1st for Indian selection.
So, this brings us to Test format , Rishabh Pant after his recent batting successes since Oval test looks certain to keep his spot as no 1 keeper batsman in test format specially as Saha is out of action due to injury and also due to Pant’s better batting skills which is required to retain depth in Indian batting which is looking very fragile overseas. Pant’s keeping has also being decent though there is still scope for more improvement before he can match Saha’s or even Dhoni’s standards as a keeper. If Saha retains back his fitness and gets back to his best keeping form then he should be around for a while longer, but probably as a cover for Pant, else selectors should try Srikar Bharat, 25 yr old keeper from Andhra. He is probably India’s best young keeper around (keepingwise) with quicksilver reflexes and is also doing pretty well in batting also , having scored a recent 100 vs Australia A. He even has a triple hundred in first class cricket. Bharat’s first class record is decent as under:
K S Bharat Mat Inn NO Runs HS Avg SR 100 50 Ct St
First Class 53 89 5 3023 308 35.98 58 5 17 186 23
List A 46 46 2 1281 125 29.11 70 3 5 52 11
T20s 31 29 2 369 51 13.66 91 0 1 27 5
Have also seen few video clippings of Bharat’s keeping and batting and it seems that he looks a pretty good prospect . Shared couple of links below.
Therefore, as of now all things considered ,we may look at the below combinations for wicketkeeping candidates in 3 formats (Combinations can change depending on future form,fitness etc) :
Tests: 1. Rishabh Pant 2. Wriddhiman Saha (if back in action) or KS Bharat
ODIs: Currently: 1. MS Dhoni 2. Rishabh Pant (but Pant should be in XI as a specialist batsman)
After World Cup 2019 : 1. Rishabh Pant 2. Ishan Kishan
T20s : 1. Dinesh Karthik 2. Ishan Kishan (Pant should be in T20 XI as a specialist Batsman)
Debates or different point of views welcome.