KS Bharat making inroads towards the Indian Test team: Andhra Pradesh’s KS Bharat has impressed one and all with his domestic performance.
Wridhhiman Saha. Parthiv Patel. Dinesh Karthik. Rishabh Pant.
Finding a suitable replacement for Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Test cricket was expected to be an onerous task. With the keeping gloves moving from the above mentioned one man to the other in the last two series for India, finding Dhoni’s replacement is proving to be an onerous task.
Saha had emerged as the pick out of all the domestic wicket-keepers present to replace Dhoni. A decent couple of year in the national side had entrusted people that he had it in him to don that role. However, a couple of injuries have forced the 33-year old wicket-keeper out of the game.
In the two Test matches that Patel and Karthik played in South Africa and England respectively, Patel scored 56 runs at an average of 14 and Karthik scored 21 runs at an average of 5.25. Furthermore, their wicket-keeping spoke otherwise of their skills.
Pant was included in the side for the third Test at Trent Bridge. Poor form at both behind and front of the wickets has questioned his ability as well. That being said, as we are writing this, Pant is whacking the English bowlers during the last day of the fifth Test at The Oval.
In what appears to be a dearth of wicket-keepers in the country, it isn’t exactly the case. There is one wicket-keeper who has steadily moved up the ranks as far as the keeping in Test matches is concerned. He is neither as experienced as Patel or Karthik nor is as good a swash-buckler as Rishabh Pant, but is consistent enough to make the vibrations of his performance reach the ears of the selectors.
Kona Srikar Bharat, a 24-year old wicket-keeper from Andhra Pradesh, is finally reaping the fruits of his hard work for his state side from the last decade and a half. A right-hand batsman, Bharat has scored 3,023 runs in 53 matches at an average of 35.98 and a strike rate of 57.97.
Among his five First-class centuries, his 308 while opening the batting against Goa at Ongole in 2015 stands out. Apart from having a safe pair of hands behind the wickets, Bharat also possesses the quality of occupying the crease for a considerable amount of time with the bat in hand, a quality which is likely to come in handy for India in cricket’s ancestral format.
Bharat has also accumulated the maximum number of catches behind the stumps across two Ranji Trophy seasons. Al this has also aided in representing the India A side, becoming a regular member for them in the last year or so.
Krishna Rao, Bharat’s coach since his early days, has always had faith in Bharat. Having seen the brighter side in Bharat, it was Rao who always motivated him to do that extra bit. In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Bharat revealed that it was his coach who forced him to become a wicket-keeper and that he also said that it is a profile which India would be looking for in the times to come.
“He [coach] told me that there’ll be a time when India will hunt for wicket-keepers, and I’ll be in that race. I’ve never believed my coach, to be honest. But it was nice to hear and I agreed reluctantly and continued, I could get on with the game and skip some college in the process! [Then] I started taking the game seriously, I started respecting the [wicket-keeping] gloves. I never believed that with wicket-keeping, I can come so far. Whatever he has told me is actually coming true. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be having this chat”, said Bharat in the interview.
If Bharat gets the chance to board the plane to Australia, he might aid the team to solve their batting woes outside the sub-continent because of the solidarity (with the bat) which he brings along with him. Additionally, he could be India’s answers to the wicket-keeping conundrum and a long-term replacement for Dhoni.