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In form, in team: Why Ishan Kishan deserves a place in India XI

Asia Cup 2023: Ishan Kishan's innings against Pakistan makes a solid case of his place in India team. Ishan Kishan or KL Rahul who will be India's first-choice wicket-keeper or number 5 batter? Do Ishan Kishan has edge over KL Rahul?

Asia Cup 2023_ Ishan Kishan or KL Rahul at no. 5 for India_ Ishan Kishan's performance against Pakistan gave an edge to him over KL Rahul_ _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©pocket_dynamoo_Twitter)
Ishan Kishan raises his bat as he scored fifty (Images: ©pocket_dynamoo/Twitter)

The last eight to nine months have been very interesting for Ishan Kishan. Beginning with zero chances of making it in the Indian lineup, he has done everything right to be selected for the upcoming ICC ODI World Cup 2023.

The ODI World Cup 2023 is slated to be held in India and will start in October.

Had India’s first choice wicket-keeper batter, KL Rahul, been fit for the ongoing Asia Cup 2023, Kishan would have no option but to warm the benches.

But the 25-year-old left hander was the one who eventually batted at No.5 for India in their rain-affected Asia cup opener against Pakistan and the mature knock of 82 offered his side the much-needed flexibility and balance they want to achieve in the 50-over format of the game.

Ishan Kishan shines at every opportunity

Even though Kishan scored a thumping 42-ball 59 in his debut ODI game in 2021 against Sri Lanka, he had to wait for another five months to be part of his third ODI game. It took him another six months to play his fourth ODI before he was called for the Bangladesh series at the end of 2022 - where he nailed a 131-ball 210 and almost overshadowed Virat Kohli’s century in the process.

Even though his double century came batting at the opening position, he was forced to bat at number four during India’s home series against New Zealand. With Rohit Sharma sitting out for much of the away ODI series against West Indies, Kishan was again promoted to the opening position where he hit three consecutive fifties to finish the series with 184 runs at an average of 61.33 and strike rate of 111.52.

The fact is Ishan Kishan has delivered in whatever opportunities he has got. The team has been experimenting with him a lot; he has been made to play in three to four positions in a span of just 10 months. Now with the return of Shreyas Iyer from injury, and India not too keen to break their opening combo of Sharma and Shubman Gill, Kishan has been demoted to No. 5 - a spot he hasn’t batted in an ODI previously.

IND vs NZ_ Ishan Kishan scored 30 runs from three games against NZ (Images_ ©ishankishan51_Twitter)
Kishan was the highest run getter for India against West Indies (Images: ©ishankishan51/Twitter)
Kishan displayed maturity and confidence against fierce looking Pakistan bowling

The hype before the electrifying clash between arch rivals India and Pakistan was built up on how India’s top order would face the world class pace trio of Pakistan. In just 40-mins of the game, India was struggling in every way to serve an answer to the fast bowling of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah.

By the time Kishan walked out to bat, India were struggling at 48/3 before being dealt with another blow at the start of the 15th over, and it seemed as if they were on the verge of being bundled out before playing their full quota of 50 overs.

Just after the third rain break, Kishan flashed his bat to the short ball from Haris Rauf to cut it over deep backward point for a huge six before getting a lucky edge that went through the gap between the wicket-keeper and first slip. Kishan, however, seemed clear of his plans of taking on the bowlers head-on.

After showing the due respect to Shadab Khan, he decided to play with his mind, and started using his feet to drill the leg-spinner down the ground before driving him through mid-off. His knock wasn’t just about coming out and striking hard; it was about showing maturity and the keenness to use the given opportunity to maximize once the platform was set.

When Hardik Pandya was bashing the bowlers from the other end, Ishan was smartly taking the singles to keep the scorecard ticking. After reaching his seventh fifty in just his 19th ODI inning, he punished Mohammad Nawaz for a huge six over the bowler’s head. Suddenly with the fifth wicket century stand, Pakistan looked under serious pressure. By the time, Babar Azam reintroduced Afridi and Naseem back into the attack, Kishan had taken India to a safe position.

As he started nearing his hundred, he was cramping and limping while running between the wickets. Even though he missed out on his second ODI century by 18 runs, this 82-run knock could possibly be his best ODI knock till now, and perhaps more satisfying than his double-hundred against Bangladesh.

In the context of the game and the quality of the opposition bowling line-up, Kishan has displayed his calmness in putting a stop to the top order madness, besides the caliber of taking responsibility in notching up a big partnership to take his side out of danger.

Versatile Kishan keeps himself ahead of Rahul in the race

The moment Gill lost his off stump at the paltry score of 10 in 32 balls, there was hardly anyone who thought India would go beyond the 250-run mark in the Asia Cup 2023 match. However, the way in which Ishan Kishan managed the partnership with Pandya boosted the team’s confidence.

Few months back, the debate was between Kishan and Sanju Samson but it has now shifted to a comparison between Kishan and KL Rahul. For Kishan, especially after getting that 15-crore deal in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, it would have been easy for him to not try too hard for international cricket, but he has shown his passion and desire to play for India.

In the debate of selecting between KL Rahul or Ishan Kishan, when former Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif decided to go with Rahul stating that Rahul has been a proven match winner at number 5 and he wasn’t dropped because of form but due to an injury, Gautam Gambhir, seated right next to him posed one question to him. The question was, “To win the World Cup, name is more important or form?” Kaif looked totally lost after the question posed by Gambhir. “Had Kohli or Rohit made those four consecutive fifties, would you have said the same thing about KL Rahul? When you are preparing to win a World Cup, you don’t look at a name, you look at the form of a player that could win you the trophy.”

“The advantage of being a specialist wicket-keeper and a left hander besides showing his maturity to find the gaps against spinners and playing on the front foot and back foot will keep him in my playing eleven for every single game,” former Indian batting coach, Sanjay Bangar, had said about the inclusion of Kishan.

What Kishan brings to the team is the left-right combination in the middle order - which will help India to tackle all sorts of spinners against various teams. The fact also remains that Rahul has been out of the game for a lot of time and there are still questions over his match fitness, while Kishan has been part of the team for a long time now and has ticked all the boxes.

In a post-match presentation with BCCI after the Hyderabad ODI earlier this year, Sharma had joked with Kishan about his non-selection despite hitting a 200 in his last series. This drew a well-timed response from the youngster, who chirped, “Bhaiyya, captain toh aap ho nah? (Brother, Aren’t you the captain)”

As it appears, Rohit Sharma has the difficult decision to make regarding Kishan, who has showcased every quality he possesses on the field. But the looming question that still remains is who will he replace?


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