KS Bharat did well behind the stumps while substituting for Wriddhiman Saha in the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, is in line to make his debut in the second Test, which begins at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.
While Wriddhiman Saha overcame a stiff neck to score a fighting half-century (61 not out) in the second innings at Green Park, there’s still uncertainty over his fitness and availability for the second Test.
KS Bharat Substituted Wriddhiman Saha And Did Well, So He May Debut In The 2nd Mumbai Test
On Wednesday, India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said that the Indian team management is yet to take a call on the availability of Wriddhiman Saha.
“We will take a call closer to the game. Physios are in constant touch with (India coach) Rahul (Dravid) and (India captain) Virat (Kohli).
The prospect of playing a Test in front of his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday – after an eight-and-a-half-year Test career – should have got Ajinkya Rahane excited. Instead, the Mumbaikar is staring at a future as gloomy as the Mumbai weather was on Wednesday.
“Closer to the game, we can take a call on what condition he is in. What Saha did in the last game was a fabulous effort. It was painful to bat, but he raised his hands and delivered for the team,” Mhambrey told reporters.
The 37-year-old Wriddhiman Saha has amassed 1313 runs in 39 Tests averaging 29.84. He has 3 tons and 6 fifties. Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh-born KS Bharat was immensely impressive in the first innings. He affected three key dismissals and played a massive role in helping India come back in the first innings.
Regular keeper Wriddhiman Saha experienced stiffness in his neck, and as a result, he didn’t keep much. Wriddhiman Saha suffered a sprain on his neck before the start of play.
KS Bharat Is Actually Natural Specialist Opener: MSK Prasad
Indian thinktank believes that India can overcome all their selection headaches for this game by giving a Test debut to KS Bharat by sending him as an opener with Shubman Gill. This move will allow India to fit in all their middle-order batsmen – the struggling Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, skipper Virat Kohli and Kanpur centurion debutant Shreyas Iyer.
This development will leave behind the hard decision to drop Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane to another day. However, to expect KS Bharat to open in his very first Test, against the likes of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, and perhaps Neil Wagner, would be asking him to go through a baptism by fire.
“It’s not a new thing to him. He’s actually a natural, specialist opener. He got his triple hundred for Andhra while opening the innings. He’s scored 90% of his runs as an opener. Given an opportunity, he can open for India,” former India chief selector and ex-stumper MSK Prasad said.
MSK Prasad, who played six Tests for India, pointed out that KS Bharat had “scored three hundred in days’ cricket” for India A too. Like everyone, MSK Prasad, who has observed KS Bharat’s growth closely both at Andhra and as a chairman of the national selection committee, was impressed by the 28-year-old’s neat glove-work, barring the odd mistake, in Kanpur.
“His ‘keeping was really good in the first Test. It’s not easy to keep wickets in Kanpur as the ball stays low and we have three kinds of spinners. If he gets the chance he’ll grab it,” Prasad said.
In the past, KS Bharat has opened for Andhra in the Ranji Trophy and has scored 4283 runs in 78 first-class games averaging 37.24, with nine hundred and 23 fifties, and even a triple hundred (308) under his belt. With doubts over veteran 37-year-old Wriddhiman Saha’s batting form and fitness, a Test debut for KS Bharat should not be far away. He is yet to play an international match for India in any format.