'Keep him in mind when you choose XI': Gavaskar wants Rohit to drop Bharat, picks discarded star as keeper in WTC final
Legendary India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar believes KL Rahul should be considered as the keeper-batter for the WTC final between India and Australia at The Oval purely because of his batting abilities.
It was Lunch on Day 5 of the India vs Australia fourth Test in Ahmedabad when New Zealand edged past Sri Lanka in a last-ball thriller in Christchurch. The result had a far-fetching impact. It knocked Sri Lanka out of the race and put India in the World Test Championship final irrespective of the result in Ahmedabad. India took the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1 after the final Test ended in a draw. It didn't take much time for the focus and discussion to shift towards the WTC final slated to be played at the Oval in England on June 7 against Australia. With two months of IPL in between, how will India prepare for the WTC final? What will the team be like?
Two of the biggest worries for India will be the absence of their star players Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant. Both of them have been out with injuries for a long time and there is no confirmation of their possible return to cricket any time soon. Bumrah's unavailability during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy did not hurt in that much as the spinners did the bulk of the bowling but in English conditions, it will be difficult to fill his void.
The same is for Pant. He was duly missed both as a batter and keeper during the four Tests against Australia. KS Bharat failed to impress with the bat and his keeping too did not ooze confidence in front of the turning ball. In the WTC final, the pitch is unlikely to favour the spinners but that will bring the focus back on Bharat's batting. Pant has been one of India's most reliable batters in Test cricket in overseas conditions and scored his maiden hundred at the same venue during the England tour in 2018.
Legendary India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar believes KL Rahul should be considered as a keeper-batter for the WTC final purely because of his batting abilities.
"You can see KL Rahul as a wicketkeeper. If he bats at No.5 or 6 in at the Oval (in the WTC final) then our batting will be stronger. Because he batted really well in England last year. He scored a century at the Lord's. Keep KL Rahul in mind when you pick your XI for the WTC final," Gavaskar told Sports Tak.
Rahul was stripped of his vice-captaincy and dropped from the XI after the first two Tests of the Australia series. He couldn't even cross the 30-run mark in his last 10 innings in Test cricket. But having said, he is India's first-choice keeper in ODIs and has a proven track record in English conditions. In fact, it was his performance the last time India toured England that helped him regain his spot back in the Test side.
Highlighting Dinesh Karthik's comments on Bharat's issues as a keeper, Gavaskar said picking Rahul for just that one Test will give more depth to the Indian batting unit.
"Dinesh Karthik summed up the problems with his wicketkeeping quite beautifully (during commentary). The real test of a wicketkeeper is on pitches like these where the ball is turning. If you look at Travis Head's dismissal, when the ball turned and hit his stumps, KS Bharat's gloves were nowhere near the ball. That means, if the ball hadn't hit the stumps, it would have resulted in 4 byes. This is definitely a cause for concern. Whether they will select him in the XI or not is up to the selection committee but in England, you won't get pitches where the keeper has to stand up to the stumps. In that case, you can pick KL Rahul as a wicketkeeper and even Ishan Kishan can be considered. Their batting is better than Bharat's," he added.