Since MS Dhoni went on sabbatical after the World Cup in England, an opportunity opened up for other wicketkeepers to secure a place in the limited-overs Indian team. The management did not have to look far for a replacement though since there were two able wicketkeepers – Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul – already lurking in the fringes of the first team.
Eventually it was the younger of the two, Pant, who got the nod to keep wickets in ODIs and T20s for the Men in Blue.
Despite presenting an imposing figure in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Delhi Capitals, Pant struggled to fill Dhoni’s massive boots on the international stage.
The youngster’s disappointing numbers with the bat along with his patchy glovework left a lot to be desired. In nine ODIs as India’s full-time keeper, the Delhi-born player could rake up just 217 runs at a modest average of a shade above 27. Despite the underpar numbers, however, there was an evident reluctance from the management to drop him in light of the obvious talent the Delhi-born player possesses.
KL pulling a Rahul Dravid
However, Pant suffering a concussion against Australia at home earlier this year forced the selectors’ hands to look at their other options. Instead of getting a new player on board, the team management took a leaf out of former captain Sourav Ganguly’s book. In early 2000s, Ganguly had asked Rahul Dravid, a full-time batsman, to take up the wicketkeeper’s role to fit in another batter in the starting line-up. And the rest was history.
With a similar agenda in mind, the management turned to KL Rahul to address their wicketkeeping woes.
KL, by the time, was already flourishing in the India setup as a specialist batsman. It was no different when it came to being the man behind the stumps. The Karnataka player, having previously performed the role for his state and IPL team Kings XI Punjab, stepped up to the occasion in a superb fashion with a streak of imposing performances.
He did not let the added pressure of wicketkeeping take a toll on his batting. In fact, he thrived as a batsman after being handed the new role. KL finished the 5-match T20I series against New Zealand with 224 runs in the kitty at an outstanding average of 56. In comparison, Pant only managed 197 runs in 16 T20I innings at a lowly average of 19.70.
The gap was consistent on the ODI front too. Operating as a wicketkeeper batsman, KL has scored 303 runs along with a century in just 5 games – 86 more than Pant, who had played four more matches. His glovework too has been far more reliable than Pant’s.
KL’s ability to give compelling performances at home and overseas adds to the appeal of using him in that role.
Considering the stats and current form of KL Rahul, it is logical to say the team will go ahead with him instead of Pant in the near future.
By Sportz Interactive