On Friday morning, Indian cricket fans were left jittery after hearing about Rishabh Pant's serious car accident which took place when the wicket-keeper was driving to Roorkee. In a statement issued by the BCCI,
"Rishabh has two cuts to his forehead, a ligament tear in his right knee and has also hurt his right wrist, ankle, and toe and has suffered abrasion injuries to his back. His condition remains stable, and he has now been shifted to Max Hospital, Dehradun, where he will undergo MRI scans to ascertain the extent of his injuries and formulate a further course of treatment."
Even before the accident, Pant was excluded from the white-ball team for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka. He was about to train at the NCA to cure the niggle in his knee and get ready for the high octane Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, which is scheduled to be held in February 2023.
As per the reports, the wicket-keeper is said to be out of action for at least 3-6 months, which puts him out of contention for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and IPL 2023 as well.
Pant, with his counter-attacking approach while batting, has been a vital cog in the Indian red-ball team since 2018. In 2022, he was India's top run-scorer in Tests, scoring 680 runs in just 7 matches which included 2 centuries and 4 half-centuries.
His absence at the 4-match Test series against Australia will be a big drawback for India. It also presents a challenge for the Indian team selectors to find an alternative for the flamboyant wicket-keeper.
As India look for a stand-in wicket-keeper, the following 3 players can be considered crucial choices in the test squad for the series against Australia.
#3: KS Bharat
Kona Srikar Bharat came into the limelight when he was part of the RCB Camp, scoring 191 runs in 8 matches during IPL 2021. The dashing Andhra cricketer has been a part of the Ranji Trophy since 2012. In 2015, he became the first wicket-keeper to score a triple hundred in the Ranji Trophy when he amassed 308 runs off 311 balls against Goa.
In 84 first-class matches, Bharat has notched up 4533 runs at a healthy average of 37.46 with 9 centuries and 25 fifties. He has been in and out of the Indian Test squad since 2020, having been considered a replacement for Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant. He also kept wickets for India during a test match against New Zealand in Kanpur when Saha complained of stiffness in his neck before the start of Day 3.
#2: Wriddhiman Saha
Veteran wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha has been part of the Indian team since his 2010 debut against South Africa. Despite being under the shadow of MS Dhoni until 2014, he grabbed those few opportunities presented to him and was an active part of the Test team until Rishabh Pant came into the limelight. He has since played as a replacement for Pant and was unfortunately removed from the Test squad at the end of 2021.
Saha has been part of the Tripura team and is in decent form in the ongoing Ranji Trophy 2022-23 season. In 3 matches, he has scored 231 runs at a scintillating average of 77 with 1 century and 1 fifty.
In the absence of Pant, Saha's experience at the international level and high-level keeping skills on turning tracks could come in handy for the Indian team during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
#1: Ishan Kishan
Ishan Kishan, the 2016 U-19 team captain is considered one of the most dangerous upcoming cricketers in the world right now.
Despite his enviable record playing for the Mumbai Indians team in the IPL, Ishan has not been able to cement his place in the Indian side, unlike his U-19 deputy Rishabh Pant.
However, Ishan recently grabbed a golden opportunity with both hands by smashing the fastest double hundred in ODI cricket when he was selected by the team as a replacement for Rohit Sharma during the ODI leg of the tour to Bangladesh due to the latter's injury.
The left-handed aggressive batsman could be considered an apt replacement for Rishabh Pant in the upcoming test series against the Aussies.
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