Team India wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat has found himself playing in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia following an unfortunate injury to Rishabh Pant. The Andhra-born player warded off competition from Ishan Kishan to feature in the playing XI and now has an opportunity to etch his name in Indian folklore.
He is tasked with rescuing India out of a perilous situation in the first innings of the WTC final at The Oval. India are reeling at 151-5, still 318 runs behind Australia's tally at Stumps on Day 2.
The keeper-batter, who came in late during the day following Ravindra Jadeja's dismissal, was greeted by the Australian seamers with a couple of body blows. However, he held his guard and fended off 14 deliveries to score five runs.
Only major contributions from Ajinkya Rahane and KS Bharat, India's last recognized batting pair, can save the team from a tame defeat. The latter, despite batting at No.7, has tons of experience batting at the domestic level. He has played 90 first-class matches, scoring 4808 runs at an average of 37.27.
While the tricky surface at The Oval and a polished Australian bowling attack present a challenge that Bharat has never encountered before, it is not unfair of the fans to expect something special from him when Team India's are close to hitting rock bottom.
He has shown that he has the caliber and temperament to endure long stays at the crease and score heavily once settled in. On the other hand, he could also ramp up the scoring rate and pile the pressure on the bowlers with some counter-attacking, much like Travis Head in the first innings.
In the absence of flamboyant players like Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan, the aggressive route can also be opted for despite its high-risk-high-reward nature.
He made his debut during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia and has played four Tests, scoring 101 runs.
On that note, here are his three best knocks in domestic cricket which might give India some hope for the WTC final.
#1 89 off 70 balls (Andhra vs Hyderabad; Ranji Trophy 2022-23, Vizianagaram)
One of his most recent endeavors on the domestic circuit was a counter-attacking knock to help Andhra secure a win over Hyderabad. The Hanuma Vihari-led side could only score 135 runs in the first innings, with only two batters reaching double figures.
Beginning their second innings trailing by 62 runs, Bharat came into bat at 114-3 and shared a 147-run partnership with Ricky Bhui for the fourth wicket.
It was counter-attacking cricket at its best as he ended up scoring 89 runs off 70 deliveries, where 72 runs came in the form of boundaries. Andhra scored 462 runs in their second innings and won the contest by 154 runs.
#2 178* off 277 balls (Andhra vs Hyderabad; Ranji Trophy 2018-19, Vizianagaram)
KS Bharat has shown that he is capable of scoring at multiple gears according to what the situation and the conditions demand. While the first knock was an example of counter-attacking cricket, the following one is driven by resilience.
During the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy season, Andhra found themselves at 166-3 in the first innings during a group-stage encounter against Hyderabad. With the opposition scoring 271 in their attempt, the game was poised well.
However, Bharat played an exceptional unbeaten knock of 178 off 277 deliveries and shared a mammoth 234-run partnership with Ricky Bhui. The wicketkeeper's century helped Andhra post a staggering 502-7 in the first innings.
The contest resulted in a draw with him being adjudged the player of the match for his efforts.
#3 308 off 318 balls (Andhra vs Goa; Ranji Trophy 2014-15, Ongola)
KS Bharat became the first wicketkeeper to score a triple-hundred in a Ranji Trophy game after his exceptional 308-run knock against Goa.
The 2014-15 season was special for Bharat as well, since he amassed 758 runs in nine matches.
Opening the innings for Andhra, the wicketkeeper-batter was at his aggressive best and played for 120 overs to score his triple ton. His innings comprised 38 fours and six sixes, coming at a strike rate of 99.04.
Andhra scored 548-5 in the first innings and the bowlers ensured a win by an innings and 136 runs.
Will KS Bharat step up to the plate to rescue India from a tricky situation in the WTC final against Australia? Let us know what you think.