Ishan incredible talent, needs sensitive handling: Saba Karim | Crickit
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Ishan incredible talent, needs sensitive handling: Saba Karim

Jan 10, 2024 10:23 PM IST

Sitting out continuously can be tough on a player, especially when he has done well. The 'keeper-batter's case raises questions

Purely from a cricketing perspective, Ishan Kishan hasn’t done a whole lot wrong. With Rishabh Pant deservedly cornering all the glory, he has patiently waited for his chances, the two having started their careers at the same time in the India U-19 team where Ishan was captain. As No.1 choice Pant works towards regaining full fitness, Ishan has stepped up to fill his boots in the chances that he has got. Being a player in a similar mould -- attacking left-handed batter and 'keeper -- this provided an ideal opportunity for him to prove that he can fill in the gap. After the recent ODI World Cup though the script has not gone as expected.

Ishan Kishan during the 2023 Asia Cup(AP) PREMIUM
Ishan Kishan during the 2023 Asia Cup(AP)

The point is Ishan is not a journeyman cricketer. He is a prized commodity who has his entire career in front of him while he has gained good experience before turning 25. While he is on a break for the T20Is against Afghanistan starting on Thursday, it didn't seem fit that he was reduced to a passenger during the white-ball leg of the recent South Africa series when he should have been in the playing XI as a keeper-batter in the T20s and as a top-order batter in the ODIs.

Unless a player has disciplinary issues, every team takes great care to back the player and get the best out of him. In his press conference in Mohali on Wednesday, coach Rahul Dravid said there's no disciplinary reason in Kishan leaving South Africa early.

Sitting out continuously can be tough on a player, especially when he has done well. Ishan was in the ODI World Cup squad, and when Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are not in the team it is expected that he should be the next in line in terms of giving someone a chance. And during the ODI series in South Africa, it was announced that KL Rahul will keep wicket in the two Tests, a spot which was with Ishan in the previous Test series in the West Indies.

So, can benching such a player regularly not affect his motivation?

“I am sure it does in a big way," said Saba Karim, former India keeper, selector and administrator. "In the World Cup, whatever limited opportunities he got, he did quite well (0 vs Australia, 47 vs Afghanistan). Then post World Cup, he played the Australia T20 series where he did well at No 3 (58 @ S/R 148.71, 52 @ 162.50, 0). He is one such cricketer who has been slotted in different positions and he has done admirably in whatever opportunities he has got. So, he must be expecting a return in the eleven, in white ball and Test team.

"He did really well In the West Indies, as a Test keeper, with the bat as well as the gloves. Then you would expect more consistency from the selectors as well as the team management, and I don’t know for what reason one has not seen that. I still feel he has immense potential; he fits in a different kind of role altogether. One has seen a progression in his career graph in terms of performances,” said Saba, who was BCCI GM.

Having opted for KL Rahul as keeper in South Africa, the team management has a tough call to take for the home Test series against England starting on January 25. Turning pitches are expected and keeping wicket on them is a different challenge altogether where even the specialists struggle.

“I will still put Ishan in the XI because you need that kind of batter at No.6 since Pant is not there, and I don’t expect Rahul to keep wicket. Rahul did quite well in South Africa but there most of the bowling he had to keep against was pace. At home, we will have two or three spinners operating for longer periods and can take a toll on someone Rahul, who has hardly kept at first-class level," said Saba.

“On turning tracks, there is variable bounce; you should be used to keeping wicket on such tracks and Ishan has done that. He has kept wicket for Jharkhand and India A in these conditions, so he is aware of the responsibility that comes as a wicketkeeper at Test level. He was adept behind the stumps in the West Indies, so he has experience now. Plus, the exposure of playing Test cricket, all that will stand him in good stead.

“For Rahul to keep and then bat in Indian conditions is not going to be so easy. Also, one should look at maximising his potential as a batter more than a 'keeper. If you keep all this in mind, then I think India should opt for Ishan once again behind the stumps.”

Also, just in terms of talent, Ishan should be handled with care as a back-up for Pant.

“The selectors and team management need to be aware that such cricketers have to be handled properly. You don't want to miss out on such incredible talent that Ishan has. It is not only about Ishan, the entire lot of young players coming through the system need to be treated with better communication and sensitivity. If someone like Ishan has referred to the team management that he is going through mental fatigue, it has to be taken very seriously because these are issues that have come up now."

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