KS Bharat- Saha’s Standby for Test Tour of England
Bharat holds the distinct record of being the first wicket-keeper to score a triple ton in Ranji Trophy.
The BCCI adopted a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach as they named KS Bharat as standby for Wriddhiman Saha for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and the five-Test series against England. The seasoned stumper has recently recovered from COVID-19 and his participation is subject to fitness clearance. It is only prudent that the think tank didn’t leave anything to chance and kept Bharat in the wings as a precautionary measure.
While ardent watchers of the game are well aware of Bharat’s credentials, many who don’t devote themselves to domestic cricket were left in a tizzy. They are not to be blamed though, as the uncapped wicketkeeper-batsman has remained largely behind the scenes, associated with the Indian team as a reserve for the likes of Rishabh Pant and Saha. Bharat was a part of the national camp in the home Tests against England earlier this year and is now all set to board the flight for his maiden international stint with Virat Kohli’s troops. Let’s turn back the clock on his sporting journey to find out how the happy-go-lucky Andhra glovesman rose through the ranks to join the big boys’ club.
Bharat wasn’t a prodigy by any stretch of the imagination but he was a diligent disciple from the very beginning. An old-school workhorse in nature, he bided his time at the crease and wore down the opposition to churn out red-inkers for his state at junior levels. Having never donned the wicket-keeping mitts before, it was in his last season of U19 cricket that Bharat took up the role as he spotted a vacancy in the Ranji set-up for a keeper-bat. He picked the brains of MSK Prasad, a proficient keeper in his heyday who went on to serve as the chairman of the Indian selection panel.
On batting fronts, Bharat’s herculean triple-century against Goa in the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy campaign shot him into the limelight. In what was a marathon effort punctuated with 38 fours and half-a-dozen sixes, the youngster became the first wicket-keeper to achieve the feat of a triple-ton in the history of the tournament. An overall tally of 758 runs at a fabulous average of 54 in that edition saw Bharat win an IPL contract with Delhi Daredevils, although he is yet to register his debut in the cash-rich league. He is a Royal Challenger at the moment.
Bharat has featured in 78 first-class fixtures, scoring 4,823 runs at 37.24 with nine centuries and 23 fifties. He has been a pretty tidy customer behind the sticks, having latched onto 270 catches and inflicted 31 stumpings, with the no-look flick to dismiss Punjab's Jiwanjot Singh easily being the best of the lot. With such displays of dexterity Bharat quickly carved a niche for himself among India’s premier wicket-keepers and booked a permanent place in the India A circuit.
The right-hander grounded England Lions to dust with an enterprising 148 and followed it up with a resplendent 117, with Sri Lanka A at the receiving end. Bharat proved to be a terrific judge of length, unfurling crisp drives, backfoot punches and whips through the carpet while also taking the aerial route later in the innings. The dominating knocks didn’t go unnoticed as Bharat was called up as cover for Saha in the second Test against Bangladesh late in 2019. He was also drafted in as a substitute during the ODI series against Australia when Pant suffered a mild concussion.
Bharat, who averages 28.14 in 51 List A games with a strike rate of a tick under 70, is being groomed as the heir apparent to Saha as the senior pro approaches the final throes of his career. As the England tour beckons, Bharat will look forward to absorbing everything like a sponge from Saha and Pant, the frontline custodians of the Indian camp. It will be a steep learning curve for the rookie as the cherry wobbles to an appreciable degree in England and makes life incredibly difficult for keepers, especially those who have forever plied their trade in the subcontinent. Having always carried a warrior-like spirit, you can bet on the fact that Bharat will be up for the challenge.
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