KS Bharat makes a strong case for himself as second ‘keeper in future


They say, one man’s loss in another man’s gain. In Indian cricket, one player having neck stiffness becoming a blessing in disguise for another player has majorly set the stone for being a turning point. In 1994, Sachin Tendulkar’s break as an ODI opener came after Navjot Singh Sidhu set the tone for him being an opener in the format. In 2021, Wriddhiman Saha, unable to keep wickets in the Kanpur Test against New Zealand, opened doors for KS Bharat to don the gloves.

Just before the start of day three, Bharat, an India A regular for the past three years, in his own words, had very little time to gather himself and be ready for keeping wickets in a Test match even before making his debut.

“I was doing my morning routine and then the support staff told me to get ready. I only had 12 minutes to get set for the game,” he had said in a video posted by BCCI on its website.

Despite very little time for preparation, Bharat was like a student who was unsure of appearing for a surprise exam on a short notice but came out with flying colours. The 28-year-old gave a good account of himself on a Green Park pitch which had variable bounce with the odd ball keeping very low and one or two rare deliveries going a bit up and down.

In his stint behind the stumps, Bharat showed his keeping finesse while being a part of three dismissals in the first innings. A well-set Will Young, batting on 89, got a thickish edge to an outside the off-stump delivery from Ravichandran Ashwin while going for a cut on backfoot. Bharat stayed low as the ball kept really low and pouched a tough catch. But when the umpire gave not out, Bharat as well as Ashwin were sure of the dismissal, which led to the decision being reversed and breaking the 151-run opening stand.

Bharat went on to take a lovely catch of Ross Taylor off Axar Patel, catching the outer edge on time from a delivery which gripped and turned. But it was the stumping of Tom Latham that showcased his athleticism. Latham came down the pitch while trying to counter a wide delivery. But the ball turned big to bounce off his glove. Amidst all this, Bharat was alert to follow the deviation and then collect the ball to stump Latham short of his crease.

In between, Bharat was motivating the bowlers with one-liners, seamlessly switching between English, Hindi and Tamil (when bowling to Ashwin). In his unexpected stint as a substitute keeper, Bharat showed confidence and presence of mind.

Though bowling coach Paras Mhambrey didn’t give a hint on whether Saha will be fit enough to play in the second Test in Mumbai, one won’t be surprised if Bharat continues the good show with the gloves from Kanpur to Mumbai apart from getting a chance to show his batting prowess. For now, he has shown that he can be a great keeper-batter for India in Test cricket if Saha is not there or Rishabh Pant is rested.



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