Why Ishan Kishan is a serious threat to Rahul’s return to Indian XI

The mature innings of 82 against Pakistan only adds to the youngster’s growing credentials as his childhood coach feels Kishan has a strong case now

A number of former cricketers-turned-TV pundits have spoken in favour of Jharkhand boy Ishan Kishan ahead of KL Rahul (photo: Getty images)
A number of former cricketers-turned-TV pundits have spoken in favour of Jharkhand boy Ishan Kishan ahead of KL Rahul (photo: Getty images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

If the raging debate during the last ICC World Cup was who would bat for India at number four, it’s now about KL Rahul or Ishan Kishan at No.5 ahead of the upcoming edition. Everytime, it acquires the stature of almost a national crisis for the Indian cricket fan – and it’s no different as senior pro Rahul is now ‘fit’ for a comeback for the crucial Super Four game against Pakistan on Sunday. 

While Kishan’s mature effort of 82 in an unaccustomed No.5 position against Pakistan has earned him praise all around, the youngster has also shown an uncanny knack of grabbing any opportunity with both hands over the past year. A number of former cricketers-turned-TV pundits have spoken in favour of opting for current form and fitness of the Jharkhand boy ahead of Rahul’s reputation.  

Gautam Gambhir, not the one to mince his words, was most vocal though: ‘’India will make a monumental blunder if they don't choose Ishan Kishan over KL Rahul”. It may be pertinent to mention here that Gambhir, a key architect of India’s 2011 World Cup win, has been brutal in his assessment despite being the mentor of the IPL franchise led by Rahul.  

While Rahul’s comeback in the playing XI looks a matter of time now, Kishan’s coming of age – both as a batter and behind the stumps – in the past year has been remarkable. After taking his international bow in 2021 in the T20Is, Kishan had been in and out of the team in both white ball formats till his gamechanging innings of 210 against Sri Lanka came earlier this year. 

It was an innings which reflected that there could be more to his batting than those fancy 360 degree shots in T20s in the way he paced that knock – joining the elite club of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill as Indian batters who struck double centuries in the 50-overs game.  

The continued absence of Rishabh Pant, his teammate at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup, made Kishan an automatic choice for a Test debut while Rahul’s continued lay-off meant he got an extended run during a full West Indies tour and then the ongoing Asia Cup. He was the highest scorer in that three-match ODI series in the Caribbean, raking up back-to-back half-centuries (52,55,77) to again join an elite band of Indian batters who has scored fifties in all three games of a bi-lateral series. 

In the Asia Cup, he came in with India reeling at 66 for four and the Pakistan pace trio of Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah breathing fire. A pragmatic Kishan scratched his way through initially, waited for the ball to get softer and gave vice-captain Hardik Pandya excellent support to take India to a respectable 266 – a total which prevented in handing Pakistan the psychological edge initiative in a busy season where they could be meeting few more times. 

What has, then, changed in Kishan’s game from the extravagant approach that he was always known for? Uttam Mazumder, a childhood coach of the upcoming Indian star whom he had groomed since a 12-year-old, told the National Herald: ‘’It’s true that he made his mark in white ball cricket as an attacking opener, but he always had the temperament of playing the long innings. I was a witness to his innings of 273 against Delhi in Ranji Trophy, the highest ever individual score for any Jharkhand batter."

‘’Now with more than two seasons of international cricket behind him, he has matured and shown his character and I believe he qualifies to play as India’s main keeper-batter. It’s upto the Team India management to play the best XI to win Asia Cup and World Cup too,’’ he added.

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Published: 08 Sep 2023, 2:27 PM