Keeping is an area India have plenty of options, but finding the right candidate to suit the team’s identity and approach will be key

The ongoing 15th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has given the Team India management an interesting headache ahead of this year’s ICC T20 World Cup in Australia. India, who failed to qualify for the T20 World Cup semi-finals last year, will be trying to do better this time around. For that, they need to have the right balance, and we might see a fresher squad this time around. 

Keeping is an area India have plenty of options, but finding the right candidate to suit the team’s identity and approach will be key. The IPL 2022 edition is somewhat a dress rehearsal for the wicket-keepers in line. The performance of a veteran player like Dinesh Karthik has suddenly made things more interesting. People are talking about a comeback for Karthik, and if he ends up maintaining the consistency, the Indian cricket team management could spice things up by handing him a recall. 

Here we decode who should be India’s number one keeper in the global T20 event and why.

Who are the options in terms of keeping?

In the present scenario, India have options such as Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, and KL Rahul. With Dinesh Karthik back in the fray, the options have increased. In a realistic scenario, Rahul is unlikely to don the keeping role given he is the first-choice batter and will open for India. He is also not keeping in the IPL for Lucknow Super Giants. Therefore, it leaves us with the other four players mentioned above.

What is the criteria?

In a 15-member squad, India need to get the exact balance with a mix of pacers, spinners, all-rounders, and batters like. India’s batting options mean that they would look at a keeper or two and the role which will be meted out. So if a proper finisher is needed, DK could be entrusted. If more muscle is required in the middle, someone like a Pant will come in. With India being well-stocked in the top-order, it would be difficult for a keeper-batter who bats upfront to fit in. Also, India will try out players in order to have the right blend in the lead up to the World Cup. They would also want to back the players in mind and give them the desired chances.

Decoding the performance of the four keeping options

In IPL 2022, Mumbai Indians opener Ishan Kishan has mustered 191 runs from seven games. He has an average of 31.83. His strike rate is a mere 116.46. Overall, Kishan has managed 1,643 runs in the IPL. Kishan started the season well but has faltered since then. With MI virtually out, he has seven more games to change his fortunes.

RR skipper Sanju Samson has shown his muscle in the middle order or at number three. Samson has piled up 155 runs from six games so far. He has scored at 25.83 (SR 158.16). Samson has done a reasonable job for an in-form RR but needs more productivity as the season progresses.

Rishabh Pant, who is leading Delhi Capitals, has 144 runs in the IPL this season at number four for DC. He averages 36.00 with a best of 43. Pant will also need to bring more depth in batting and help DC.

Dinesh Karthik has been reliving the years in IPL 2022 for RCB. In seven games, he has 210 runs at 210.00. He has the best score of 66*. His strike rate reads a superb 205.88.

Performance for Team India by these players

In 43 T20Is, Pant has 683 runs for India at 24.39. He has three fifties. He has a strike rate of 125.78. In 10 games, Kishan has 289 runs for India at 32.11. He has scored two fifties with the best of 89. Samson has played 13 games for India, scoring a paltry 174 runs at 14.50. Meanwhile, DK has 399 runs from 32 games at 33.25 with the best of 48.

Conclusion: DK should get the nod 

Keeping the T20 World Cup later this year in mind, we feel Karthik should be India’s number one choice. The reason being he is a prime finisher, someone who can come in at number six or seven and help India accelerate at the death. He has a strike rate in excess of 180 in the IPL at the death. Karthik can help India finish games strongly, be it batting first or chasing a target. With Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja in the mix, India can have a strong 5, 6, and 7.

Another reason is the experience of DK both in the IPL and for India in the T20s. He has shown his mettle in the past, and the team should cash in on his performance. He is braced to have a sound IPL, and DK has himself outlined his goal to make a return to Team India. 

India’s second choice can be Pant. He has been with the side for a while now and adds depth in that middle-order.

Probable 15-member squad of Team India

KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah

Bench: Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, T Natarajan, Rahul Chahar

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