By Nilavro Ghosh
After almost two decades with an irreplaceable warrior behind the stumps, India must do the impossible, replace him.
One of the biggest challenges in team sports has always been replacing a legend. Be it Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid or AB de Villiers in the South African cricket team, the departure of a legendary player leaves the team with a gaping hole which is often not filled for a long period of time. The pressure that comes with stepping into the boots of such a player can severely damage a youngster’s confidence from which they might never recover.
The Indian cricket team have had the privilege of having a rock behind the stumps for almost two decades now in the form of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a man who has revolutionized wicket-keeping and has won more international trophies than any Indian cricketer as captain, including the 2011 cricket world cup. Now, at the back end of his career with only a few years left to give, India must look elsewhere for a new guard behind the stumps, a task which is proving to be an near impossible challenge.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) headed by former captain Sourav Ganguly has three main candidates on the table: Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan. While there are more experienced players like Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha, they are not feasible for long term plans.
The board seems to favour Pant as the next permanent keeper, but the youngster’s inconsistency has planted doubts over his ability in a large number of people’s minds. He is not yet dependable with the bat to make a difference for India and his wicket keeping performances for the national team have not compensated that shortcoming. He is infamous for dropping sitters and missing out on easy stumping opportunities.
KL Rahul is on the verge on becoming a permanent starter for India thanks to his impressive batting, but his wicket-keeping abilities are not something coach Ravi Shastri is willing to rely on yet. Rahul has not stood behind the stumps for a long time and might have to work a lot to rid himself of any rust. He is more likely to be a back up keeper in the starting 11 like former cricketer Rahul Dravid.
Ishan Kishan’s potential is yet to be tapped into by the national team, but the youngster’s endearing performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and First Class cricket. The 22-year-old captained the Indian side to the final of the under-19 cricket World Cup in 2016 but lost to the West Indies. His abilities as a captain, wicket-keeping prowess, and explosive batting style is similar to M.S. Dhoni but it is too early to draw parallels.
As things stand, however, Rishabh Pant is in prime position to replace M.S. Dhoni behind the stumps in all formats of the game.