Future tense for Ishan Kishan; Iyer gets back to Ranji Trophy grind

The wicketkeeper-batter’s availability is still in doubt as he trains with new Mumbai Indians skipper Hardik Pandya

Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer seem to be taking divergent paths
Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer seem to be taking divergent paths

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The last is yet to be heard on the controversy over the omission of Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer from India's T20I series against Afghanistan, which got underway in Mohali on Thursday. While Iyer has been named in the Mumbai squad to play their Ranji Trophy match against Andhra Pradesh from Friday, there is no such confirmation about Kishan’s availability for domestic action — something which may further damage the latter’s chances of a recall to the national team. 

A cricket website has reported that Kishan, who captained Jharkhand last season, could be seen in action in their match against Services in Delhi from 19 January, which may be too late for him to be in the reckoning for the wicketkeeper-batter’s role for at least the first two Tests in the upcoming home series against England. There is, however, no confirmation about his availability, since the wicketkeeper-batter is currently training in Baroda with Hardik Pandya, his new Mumbai Indian skipper for the 2024 IPL season. 

The lack of communication between Kishan and the powers that be over his availability may further isolate the 25-year-old, who sought to be released from his duties ahead of the Test series against South Africa as he wanted to return home. A recent report in the media attributed the selection snub for both Kishan and Iyer as some kind of punitive measure, the former for indiscipline and the latter for his poor shot selection during the last Test series.

Denying any such ‘punishment’, India head coach Rahul Dravid said at the pre-match media conference that Kishan was unavailable for selection and would have to figure in domestic cricket first to prove his fitness. While Iyer toed the official line and returned to the Mumbai ranks, for whom he once scored runs by the truckload, Kishan’s recent move to join his IPL skipper is bound to raise questions about his priorities. 

Punishment or not, it’s clear that there has been a trust deficit between the team management and Kishan, who seems to have been frustrated at not getting enough match time despite proving himself on the few occasions that he did. There are apparently two issues which seemed to have irked the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) as per media reports — the cricketer's social media posts about partying with friends in Dubai on his way back to India, and his appearance in the reality show Kaun Banega Crorepati with Amitabh Bachchan. 

Both issues, on closer scrutiny, smack of a knee-jerk reaction from the BCCI — it cannot be the board's prerogative to decide on a player’s personal space once he is granted leave of duty. The shooting for KBC, according to sources close to the player, was facilitated by his managers RISE Worldwide (the sports management arm of Reliance Group) and was actually completed prior to his departure for South Africa. Incidentally, Smriti Mandhana — the senior women’s cricketer managed by Baseline Ventures — was also part of the show.

There is clearly a perception problem about Kishan, and the cricketer and his advisors can ill afford to let him sulk about his being in and out of the playing eleven despite strong performances. He is not the first player to be treated this way, and given the problem of plenty that Indian cricket boasts of now, a false move at this stage may prove costly for his international career.  

If the ‘mental fatigue’ born out of constant travel with the team and not getting enough opportunities is an issue, then there is nothing that a one-to-one dialogue with captain Rohit Sharma or Dravid cannot solve.  

At the end of the day, Indian cricket cannot afford the likes of another Prithvi Shaw.

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