Task for selectors if Dhoni backs out of Zimbabwe tour

NEW DELHI (TIP): About a couple of months ago, when India’s ICC World Twenty20 campaign ended in the semifinal stage, Mahendra Singh Dhoni reacted to retirement with a rhetoric, asking the scribes present in the room whether anyone had a brother or a son who could keep wickets for India. It was a telling statement on the health of wicketkeeping resources in the country. Such has been the uncertainty over Dhoni’s successor, that now there is a buzz that KL Rahul – at best a makeshift gloveman – could be tried as the wicketkeeping option on India’s forthcoming limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe if skipper Dhoni opts to sit out.

Rahul’s batting prowess seems to be covering up for the frequent blemishes behind the stumps. While it is understood that the selectors are keen on having fresh and young faces on the tour, it will be interesting to see what Dhoni chooses to do. The performances of the regular wicketkeepers in this Indian Premier League put the selectors in a quandary. Parthiv Patel has lost his place in the Mumbai Indians XI squad and Wriddhiman Saha too got dropped for a couple of matches at Kings XI Punjab. Dinesh Karthik’s erratic glovework doesn’t inspire much confidence either. This puts Naman Ojha ahead in the race.

All of them are on the other side of 30. The next big hopes are Sanju Samson, aged 21, and an 18-year-old Rishabh Pant. While Pant, India’s Under-19 wicketkeeper, has made ripples with his batting, Samson too has been touted as one for the future. But neither of the two has kept wickets in this IPL or played an entire Ranji Trophy season as a wicketkeeper.

If IPL is any indication, then there is a trend of using makeshift wicketkeepers. It started with Robin Uthappa donning the big gloves for Kolkata Knight Riders a couple of years ago and pushing his case with consistent performances, with Ambati Rayudu too doing that job for the Mumbai Indians. Royal Challengers Bangalore have taken a liking to this idea this season, fielding two wicketkeepers in Kedar Jadhav and KL Rahul – neither of whom is a regular.

Kiran More, former India wicketkeeper and chief selector, feels a regular wicketkeeper should travel to Zimbabwe if Dhoni opts out. “Dhoni is still the best wicketkeeper-batsman in India. It won’t be a bad idea if he goes for the tour as there aren’t many limited-overs matches to play this year. But if he doesn’t, then a proper wicketkeeper should go,” More told TOI. “At this moment, Naman looks to be the best man. Sanju did have a couple of sessions with me but he still has a lot of work to do on his keeping,” More added. (PTI)

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