There had been speculation that Mahendra Singh Dhoni might retire after the recently concluded World Cup in England where India were knocked out in the semi-finals. Dhoni sat out India’s ongoing tour of the West Indies and was a notable omission in the Twenty20 squad announced on Thursday by the BCCI for next month’s three-match series against South Africa.
Rishabh Pant: The 21-year-old’s form has been a bit of a concern of late. More than the runs scored, it is the manner of his dismissals that appears to be frustrating the selectors. His scores across formats during the ongoing Caribbean tour read: 0, 4, 65 not out, 20, 0, 24, and 7. And he could pay back the faith reposed in him by the team management with a strong showing in the second Test in Jamaica beginning today. For now, Pant remains the first choice across formats. And while he averages 45.43 in 17 Test innings, that figure is halved for the shorter formats – 22.90 in 10 ODI innings, and 21.57 from 17 T20I innings. Little wonder then with only 22 T20Is remaining before India play their first match in the 2020 World T20 game, the selectors plan to get a pool of three keepers ready for limited overs, especially the shortest format.
Wriddhiman Saha: Saha’s pain has clearly been Pant’s gain. While Saha was out of Test cricket for 18 months due to injury, Pant scored the only centuries for an India wicketkeeper in England and Australia. But on his return to first-class cricket, Saha scored two fifties in the two unofficial Tests for India A on the shadow tour of the West Indies. But given that India is unlikely to tinker with their playing XI after the big win in Antigua, the 34-year-old is likely to gain Test match time only during the three home Tests against South Africa, beginning in October. In ODIs and T20Is though, he’s further down the pecking order.
MS Dhoni: The ex-India captain’s not even a second-choice wicketkeeper for India in T20Is anymore. And while his performances in recent times have drawn criticism, the selectors seem to have moved on as well. Even as speculation was rife that Dhoni would call it quits at the end of the 2019 World Cup, the 37-year old decided against it and instead took a two-month break from the sport (included serving the Territorial Army for 15 days). And now he will miss a second successive T20I series with the selectors keeping him out of India’s squad for the upcoming three-match home series against South Africa. Whether the selectors spoke to Dhoni about his availability for the South Africa series could not be ascertained though.
Sanju Samson: He’s touted to be India’s second-choice keeper in white ball cricket. But while the selectors believe that Samson is ready for top-level cricket as far as batting is concerned, his glovework is still a work in progress. (The 24-year-old’s batting is considered to be on a par with Pant’s). A few members of the selection committee are expected to be in Thiruvananthapuram for India A’s ongoing series versus South Africa A and Samson’s performance will be keenly watched as he has made the squad for the last two List A games.
Ishan Kishan: The 21-year-old is also being prepped for the 2020 World T20 alongside Samson. A mainstay of the India A side, most recently, he captained them in the four-day matches against Sri Lanka A at home. And earlier this year, he became only the second Indian player to hit back-to-back centuries in T20 cricket-for Jharkhand against Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Also on the selector’s radar is the gutsy Kona Bharat, who was backup to Saha during the Tests against West Indies A. Back in 2015, the 25-year-old became the first wicket-keeper batsman to score a triple hundred in the Ranji Trophy.