Will the Indian selectors go by form and include Dinesh Karthik as the wicketkeeper for the Test series against England? Or will they go for Wriddhiman Saha who has been donning the gloves for almost all the Tests India have played ever since Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from the longest format of the game? The answer to these questions will be answered once the BCCI selectors meet to pick the team for the five-match Test series against England from August 1.
It should be noted that these questions are cropping up primarily because of the injury which Saha sustained during the latest edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and was advised a rest of almost 5-6 weeks.
The 33-year-old Karthik has been with the Indian team since 2004 when he made his ODI debut against England. However, despite being a regular member of the team for varying periods since his first stint, the Tamil Nadu batter has been unable to cement his place in the national side, thanks to MS Dhoni’s emergence.
However, the right-handed wicketkeeper-batsman once again made the headlines and caught the attention of every Indian cricket lover when he played a quickfire knock of unbeaten 29 runs off merely 8 balls against Bangladesh during the final of the 2018 Nidahas Trophy. And since then, he has not looked back. The stylish batsman continued with his sublime form in the IPL and went on to score 498 runs at an staggering average of 49.80 during the entire tournament. By doing so, he made his case stronger and was recalled into the Test side for the One-Off historic Test against Afghanistan after Saha was ruled out because of a broken thumb.
Karthik, who played for a Test after a long 87-match (Tests) hiatus, though was not able to showcase much with the bat as he managed only four runs in the solitary innings he played. However, it was his glovework that still won praise during the match which Team India went on to win comfortably by an innings and 262 runs.
Before the Afghanistan game, the 33-year-old had last played a Test match way back in 2010 against Bangladesh. In 24 Tests he has played so far for India, Karthik has amassed 1004 runs with a hundred and seven half-centuries. However, he has had a prolific first-class record with 27 hundreds and over 9000 runs. All this makes his case stronger and one feels that Karthik should get another chance when India try to win their first ever Test series in England.
However, it would still be tough for him to get included in the Test team as the BCCI selectors have entrusted Saha to look after the glovework since Dhoni’s departure from the team. Apart from the injury, the other thing that goes against Saha’s selection is his poor form with the bat in the recent time. He had a below par IPL season this year. In the 11 matches he played for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Saha could only amass 122 runs at an average of 15.25.
Saha has played 32 Tests for India in which he has scored 1164 runs at an average of 30.63. During the process, the 33-year-old has also scored three centuries and five half-centuries.
However, Karthik is not the only option India have at the moment. Veteran Parthiv Patel and Rishabh Pant are also in the fray. In 2016, Parthiv was called up as a replacement for injured Saha for the third Test of the India-England home series. That was his first Test in eight years, having missed 83 Test matches between appearances. The left-handed batsman, was then once again called up to replace Saha for the last two Tests in India’s tour of South Africa this year.
The Curious Case of Rishabh Pant!
On the other hand, Pant, who is still due to play for the national side in the longer format of the game, had a terrific IPL 2018 season as he scored 684 runs in 14 games for the Delhi Daredevils even though his franchise failed to qualify for the Playoffs and finished at the bottom of the points-table. But it could be his lack of experience that may not buy him a spot in the Indian squad for England. But undoubtedly, this lad has the makings of making it big in international cricket.