Ishan Kishan ordered to play Ranji Trophy as BCCI doesn’t want Rahul as keeper | Cricket

There is a silver lining for Ishan Kishan but with a condition. The Indian team management has reportedly decided to relieve KL Rahul from keeping duties in Test matches, making Kishan the front-runner to grab the spot in the upcoming five-match series against England starting January 25 provided he proves his fitness in a Ranji Trophy match. Multiple reports suggested that Kishan may have been dropped from the Afghanistan T20Is despite being available for selection. The reason for that could have been mistrust between him and the team management.

India’s Ishan Kishan(AP)

India head coach Rahul Dravid, however, made it clear that there was no disciplinary action taken against Kishan. The left-hander was unavailable for selection for the Afghanistan T20Is and he would be considered as soon as he makes himself available but he will have to prove his fitness in a first-class match.

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“Absolutely no disciplinary issue. Ishan Kishan was not available for selection. Ishan requested for a break, which we agreed in South Africa. We supported it. He has not yet made himself available. When he is available, he will play domestic cricket and make himself available for selection,” Dravid told reporters in Mohali on the eve of the series-opening T20I.

Earlier, reports claimed that the Indian team management was not happy after Kishan was spotted partying in Dubai using the leaves granted for his ‘mental fatigue’. Kishan has been asking for a break from national duties ever since the ODI World Cup last year. The talented keeper-batter has been a regular part of the Indian side in all three formats in the last 13 months. He may not have got regular opportunities in the XI but whenever he did, he made the most of it.

Notably, this has been Team India’s policy ever since Dravid took over. If a player misses matches due to injury or other reasons then he has to prove his fitness in domestic games before making a comeback. The policy, however, was not been followed strictly last year.

That is exactly why the non-selection of Kishan created a lot of fuss in the media. Dravid did say that Kishan was unavailable and not dropped but if that is true then why was seen practising with his Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya in Vadodara? Has Kishan become that big a name in Indian cricket that he can pick and choose matches, now?

Whatever may be the reason, the ball is in Kishan’s court now. The 25-year-old has been given a clear directive to play first-class cricket if he wants to be the first-choice keeper for the England series. There are contradicting reports regarding his availability for the same. A Cricbuzz report claimed that Kishan might make himself available for Jharkhand’s next fixture against Services in Delhi from January 19 while The Indian Express reported that Kishan is unlikely to play the Ranji Trophy and if not selected for the England series, will straightaway ply his trade for the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024.

Why not KL Rahul as keeper?

On his return to Test cricket, Rahul did a splendid job in his new role as a keeper and middle-order batter. He, however, might not get the same role against England. According to Cricbuzz, the Indian team management doesn’t want to burden Rahul with keeping in the longest format, especially on Indian pitches where the ball is expected to keep low and turn. They want a specialist keeper to handle Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav. But Rahul’s spot in the middle-order is more or less confirmed. He is likely to be picked for the No.5 spot ahead of Shreyas Iyer.

With Rishabh Pant still not fully recovered from the injuries he sustained in a car crash in December 2022 and Wriddhiman Saha told to move on, the selectors really don’t have much of an option but to turn to Kishan, who has experience of playing only Test matches but is a regular keeper. He has kept for Jharkhand in 50 first-class matches.

Where is KS Bharat?

The other keeper in the fray is KS Bharat. The Andhra Pradesh cricketer was ahead of both Kishan and Rahul in the pecking order but his disappointing show in the home series against Australia last year and the WTC final hurt his case. He, however, is likely to feature in the two unofficial tests against England Lions before the Test series. If he does well there, then Kishan will be under pressure.

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