Rishabh Pant's replacements for Border-Gavaskar Trophy
Young keeper-batter Ishan Kishan has done a good job in the limited opportunities that he has got at the international level.

Team India’s wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant was involved in a horrific car crash towards the end of December 2022, leaving him with multiple injuries. Unfortunately, his SUV crashed into a road divider during an early morning drive when he was on his way to meet his mother. His treatment is likely to take some time, given the serious nature of the accident. While there is no official word over his recovery as doctors are still ascertaining the extent of his injuries, according to some reports, he is set to miss the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL). With Pant unlikely to feature in the Tests against Australia, we look at three candidates who can replace him in Test XI for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

1. KS Bharat 

KS Bharat has been the back-up wicketkeeper in the Indian Test team even since Wriddhiman Saha was dropped from the red-ball squad over his age factor. The 29-year-old from Andhra Pradesh is yet to make his debut for India. However, he is a highly experienced domestic campaigner. In 84 first-class matches, he has scored 4533 runs at an average of 37.46, with nine hundreds and 25 fifties. Bharat even has a triple hundred to his name, demonstrating he is someone who likes to bat for a long time.

Among present Indian wicketkeepers, Bharat is perhaps the most efficient behind the stumps, barring Saha, who is now out of contention. However, despite his domestic numbers, playing Bharat comes with its own risks. He has no experience in international cricket, though he has been part of A tours. Will the selectors and the team management trust him in a massive series like the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, especially with a place in the World Test Championship (WTC) final at stake?

2. Ishan Kishan 

Young keeper-batter Ishan Kishan has done a good job in the limited opportunities that he has got at the international level in white-ball cricket. He famously smashed the fastest double hundred in men’s ODI cricket towards the fag end of 2022. Kishan only got the chance because skipper Rohit Sharma was ruled out due to a hand injury. Not only did he grab his opportunity, but he cashed in on it in no uncertain terms.

The 24-year-old has played 22 T20Is and 10 ODIs so far and has come up with some impressive knocks. However, doubts remain over his Test credentials, as he has never been looked at as an all-format player. India will need someone who is exceptionally good behind the stumps, for he will be keeping to the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav. 

Looking at his domestic career, Kishan has the experience of 48 first-class matches in which he has scored 2985 runs at an average of 38.76, with six hundreds and a best of 273. Kishan has a similar batting style to Pant if we think of a like-for-like replacement. He is aggressive and can take on the bowling. However, he has no experience at the international level when it comes to Tests, either behind the wicket or in front of it.

3. Sanju Samson

Sanju Samson could be a dark horse in the race. The 28-year-old Kerala stumper is still trying to establish himself in the white-ball formats. Having made his international debut back in 2015, Samson has only played 11 ODIs and 17 T20Is for India so far. He has shown glimpses of talent, but mostly he has been disappointing. However, he has been impressive behind the wickets, pulling off some stunning catches. In that sense, he has a slight edge over Kishan. 

Looking at his first-class career, he has scored 3446 runs in 58 matches at an average of 38.71, with 10 hundreds and 15 fifties. Samson’s domestic record is pretty similar to Kishan and Bharat. His inconsistency with the bat in white-ball cricket, though, puts him at a disadvantage.

The final decision will not be easy. India will have to find a fine balance between a batter who can attack the bowling and someone who can also keep wickets like him.

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