India captain Rohit Sharma and chief selector Ajit Agarkar may have decided to keep the cards close to their chest on the debate over KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan is concerned but the majority of former cricketers have ruled in favour of the left-hander. Gautam Gambhir even went to the extent of calling it a “blunder” if Rahul is preferred over Kishan in India’s XI. Rahul was always the first-choice keeper-batter for two primary reasons – 1) He had made the No.5 spot his own with consistent performances. 2) He had given no reasons to complain behind the stumps. In fact, his keeping gave balance to the Indian ODI side when Rishabh Pant was injured.
Things slowly but surely started to change post-IPL 2023. Kishan, who was then playing as a backup opener, was given the gloves as Rahul was out of action due to a thigh injury. Kishan grabbed the opportunities with both hands. He returned as the top run-getter in the West Indies ODIs with a hat-trick of half-centuries.
He, however, did that at his preferred opening slot. Rahul was still the first choice because India needed someone who could bat at No.5 and Kishan’s numbers there were dreadful. But Kishan had no choice but to bat at No.5 when Rahul was ruled out for the group stage of Asia Cup and that is where he made a stronger case for himself. When India were tottering at 66 for 4 against Pakistan, Kishan stitched a record fifth-wicket partnership with Hardik Pandya to bail India out of trouble. He probably would have got to a well-deserving century if cramps hadn’t crippled him but his 82-run knock was enough for the experts to believe that he should play ahead of Rahul, who has now been declared fit and will join the Asia Cup squad.
“India will make a huge blunder if they don’t play Ishan Kishan ahead of KL Rahul,” Gambhir said on Star Sports.
Another former India cricketer Aakash Chopra said Kishan always delivers under pressure. His spot in the Indian side has never been secured but he has always scored runs whenever he has got an opportunity.
“Ishan Kishan doesn’t get many opportunities, but when he does, there’s pressure on him. He has scored a double century, and even after that, we don’t see him getting many chances, which is a fact because he wasn’t included in the very next series after his double century. Where Ishan will bat in this team is a separate issue, dependent on various circumstances but he has understood the pulse of the ODI format,” he said on his YouTube channel.
India will face Pakistan again in their first Super 4 stage match in the Asia Cup on Sunday. Rahul is expected to be back in the mix but will he play ahead of Kishan? It appears so as India would want to test his fitness before heading into the World Cup. Will that be fair to Kishan? Certainly not.