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IND vs ENG, 2024: Should India go with KL Rahul instead of Bharat as wicketkeeper in Rajkot Test?

India vs England, 2024: Should India go with KL Rahul instead of KS Bharat as wicketkeeper in Rajkot Test? KS Bharat's poor return with the bat may cost him a place?

India vs England, 2024: KL Rahul or KS Bharat, who would India chose in Rajkot Test? | Walking Wicket (Images_ ©X_Twitter)
KL Rahul or KS Bharat, who would India chose in Rajkot Test? (Images: ©X/Twitter)

With the 5-match series evenly poised 1-1 at the end of the second Test, hosts India will take on a highly competitive and challenging England team led by Ben Stokes in the third Test at Rajkot starting on the February 15.

There is an ample number of days in between the Tests for the teams to get their combinations right for the all-important Rajkot game. When we say combination, team India has a lot to ponder upon, despite getting over the line in the Vishakhapatnam Test match. This is because the home team played with a largely inexperienced batting line-up which did quite decently.

Shreyas Iyer and Rohit Sharma failed to get going but the youngsters Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill scored superlative tons. One such player who missed the Vizag Test was KL Rahul. He looked at ease in the Hyderabad game and India will hope he recovers in time for the Rajkot leg of the series. If he is deemed to be fully fit and available for the third Test, the avenues it opens up are more than one.

KL Rahul has been the most improved batter in the last year across formats, while also proving his utility as a keeper. So, the team management will sweat on his fitness in the days leading up to the game. 

Has Srikar Bharat done enough to retain a place in the playing XI?

KS Bharat is one of the best keepers in the country and has shown his abilities behind the stumps in the Test series. He has played a commendable role when it comes to keeping against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, and Kuldeep Yadav on tracks that aided both spin and bounce across the two games.

Additionally, Bharat has been highly prolific in the domestic circuit which has worked in his favour with regards to his selection in the first place. Also, the right-hander recently scored a century against the England Lions just before the commencement of this series.

However, Bharat has not been able to replicate his first-class batting success here at the Test level, though his keeping skills are never in question. He is yet to score a half-century in Tests despite having played seven red-ball games for India. Even in this series, Bharat got starts in three of the innings he has played (41, 28, 17 and 6) but couldn’t quite cash on to get a big one in any of the chances he got.

This has raised a question mark as to whether he deserves a place in the Test team going forward. It brings us to the next point of discussion which is the availability of KL Rahul. As said earlier, Rahul has been in sensational form recently having scored close to 500 runs in the World Cup 2023 batting at No.5 and striking a timely century in the testing conditions of South Africa late last year. A stunning turnaround of events post-injury hiatus made sure Rahul became an indispensable part of India’s Test and ODI set-up going forward.

His recent injury is a minor setback but Rahul has shown his ability to come back strong. So, will India’s team management take a risk and insert Rahul into the playing XI as a keeper in place of Bharat or will he continue as a batter in the middle-order? 

Bharat’s wild card into the team: Batter batting display 

In case, Rahul is back as a keeper, it leaves room for another genuine batter to be included in the XI, thus strengthening the batting line-up. This means Shreyas Iyer need not be sitting out despite having a poor show with the Willow in the series. This sounds good but the catch here is that Rahul has barely kept in Indian conditions even in domestic red-ball cricket and standing up to spinners like Ashwin, Kuldeep, Axar or Jadeja won’t be an easy task. So as things stand, KS Bharat is likely to retain the position.

In that case, India can opt to go in with a four-spinner strategy much like England did in the last two games. This could mean, India will play a solitary pacer in Bumrah or Siraj and add spin bowling batter to bolster both batting and bowling.

Either way, Bharat has to come good as a batter in whatever chance he gets in the future games. Otherwise, his time is running out once players like Rishabh Pant or Ishan Kishan return. Moreover, an uncapped Dhruv Jurel waits in the wings.


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