The Indian Test cricket team has seen its share of great wicket-keepers – Kiran More, Budhi Kunderan, Syed Kirmani and of course, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
After Nayan Mongia’s retirement and before the breakthrough of Dhoni, the team went through several keepers – Ajay Ratra, Deep Dasgupta, Vijay Dahiya, Sameer Dighe and Parthiv Patel, who just made a comeback to the Indian Test team after eight years of exile.
The returning Parthiv Patel showed us all why he was highly touted when he first debuted for India against the same opposition at Nottingham as a fresh-faced 17-year old. Playing his first Test after a gap of eight years, he showed spunk and plenty of strokes in his two batting forays in third Test at Mohali.
But Patel at 31 is no longer a viable long-term option as the search for Dhoni’s successor behind the wickets goes on. Neither is Wriddhiman Saha (32), Naman Ojha (33) or the currently-injured Dinesh Karthik (32). Here are five individuals who could take MSD’s spot in the team though:
Pant first shot into the limelight as India’s wicket-keeper in the Under-19 World Cup held in Bangladesh earlier this year. Despite not having the best tournament behind the stumps, Pant was the team’s second highest run-getter behind Sarfaraz Khan, finishing with 267 runs, with one ton and two fifties.
Fast forward to this season’s Ranji Trophy and the 19-year old from Delhi is in the form of his life. Pant is closing in on 1000 first-class runs after just eight first class appearances, and has four hundreds and three fifties to his name already.
The young left-hander resembles a certain Adam Gilchrist, with his brutal hitting and the ability to take the game away from the opposition through occasional blitzes. Smashing a 300 off just 326 balls, Pant then went on to record the Ranji Trophy’s fastest ever hundred off just 48 balls.
Despite Anil Kumble stating Patel’s keeping skills and experience for picking the Gujarat veteran over the Delhi youngster, it is surely a matter of time before Rishabh Rajendra Pant makes his way to the senior team.
Pant’s captain in the aforementioned World Cup, Kishan had all the marks of a great future, leading into the tournament – a keeper like MS Dhoni, hailing from the same state Jharkhand and skipper of his age group team.
Kishan had a torrid tournament and managed just 73 runs in his six innings, as his team faltered at the last hurdle, unable to emulate predecessor Unmukt Chand’s exploits. Still just 18, there has always been pressure on Kishan whose Ranji debut for his state came at the tender age of 16.
Like Pant however, Kishan has come into his own this season and has grown as a batsman registering scores of 159 (not out), 273 and 136 for Jharkhand. Gujarat Lions saw his promise early and picked the then-17-year old Kishan up for Rs. 35 lakh. It is now up to Kishan to make good on that promise.
Before Pant and Kishan though, the original keeping talent was Sanju Samson. It is hard to believe that Samson, who has seen calls for his inclusion numerous times, is just 22.
A rare find from the state of Kerala, Samson burst onto the scene in the 2013 edition of the Indian Super League, where captain and mentor Rahul Dravid, a part-time keeper himself, reserved praise for the young colt, who produced a series of scintillating performances for the Rajasthan Royals.
The problem with Samson, has been his consistency. Despite being a mainstay of the Kerala team, his average of 35.26 at first class level, a good average for a keeper nonetheless, does not do justice for his talents as a batsman. Samson also has been plagued with disciplinary problems of late, something that he has to stamp out if he wants a better future in the game.
This season, Samson started with a 154 against Jammu and Kashmir but failed to cross 50 even once in 10 innings, registering five single-digit scores along the way. Still in the reckoning, but he must pull his socks up if he hopes to seek a spot in the team.
At 29, Tare is also the oldest on this list and not far behind the likes of Patel, Saha, Ojha or Karthik but he does offer four to five years of stability at the highest level.
Not only that, Tare is a proven winner, having captained his side Mumbai to the 2015 Ranji Trophy title; the only one of the five to have led a senior team to a title, domestic or international.
He also comes with bags of experiences at the domestic level, and has 180 dismissals to his name in first-class competition. Tare was also part of the Mumbai Indians team which won the Champions League T20 and the IPL.
While the job of the Mumbai captain may be one of the most demanding jobs in Indian cricket, for Tare, it may be an important stepping stone en route to national duty.
Given the indecision around Dhoni’s back-up (before he retired) or subsequently, his replacement, it is a surprise that Uday Kaul’s name has been absent from the discussion.
Having played for India A, India U-19’s, India U-17’s, Kings XI Punjab and the North Zone, the 28-year old left-hander from Punjab is an attacking option for his state, either as an opener or at No. 3.
Kaul’s average is a healthy 47.42 at first-class level, a good indicator of his consistency and the southpaw has 16 hundreds to his name. This season, Kaul has been a study run-getter, bagging five fifties in 11 innings for the Yuvraj Singh-led side.