Since January of last year, India have mostly used three wicketkeepers in their T20 team. Jitesh Sharma, Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson have shared games among them for the national team. Due to the horrific accident suffered in 2022, Rishabh Pant is still out of contention. KL Rahul could have been a viable option for the men in blue. He is the preferred wicketkeeping option in both longer versions of the game. However, the 31 year old was preoccupied with his ODI duties last year as he wore wicket keeping gloves throughout the entirety of the last World Cup. The selectors face a tough battle as neither of these five have been able to nail down a spot over the last twelve months.
The Wicketkeeper Dilemma
Ishan Kishan has appeared for India’s T20 team on 11 occasions. This has been the highest number of appearances for a wicketkeeper. Sanju Samson and Jitesh Sharma have both played 9 games in that period. Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul did not play a single game over the last twelve months. None of them managed to make it even to matchday squads.
The Team India management has shown more faith in Jitesh Sharma in recent times. He was India’s first choice wicketkeeper in the last two T20 series against Australia and Afghanistan. His highest score was 35 from 19 balls in the 4th T20 against Australia back in December. He played in the first two games against Afghanistan and Samson played in the third. Sharma batted brilliantly in the first game against Afghanistan in Mohali. He failed to score any runs in the second match. Sanju Samson was given a chance in the third game. The 29 year old from Kerala failed to grab his chance, though; he went back to the pavilion with a duck.
Ishan Kishan has mostly played at the top of the order. The 25 year old was the backup wicketkeeper for India in the 2023 World Cup. But the southpaw batsman from Jharkhand will find it difficult to get a slot at the top of the order after the return of stalwarts Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Sanju Samson and Jitesh Sharma have mostly played in the middle order in their careers. Jitesh Sharma can also function as a finisher for the team.
However, India’s coach Rahul Dravid has indicated that the slots for wicketkeepers in India’s 2024 T20 World Cup squad are up for grabs. The door to the World Cup team is still open for KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant. The 2024 IPL starting on March 23 will be a key factor in determining the wicketkeeper spot in the World Cup. Rishabh Pant will be eager to enter the fray once again as he has not played competitive cricket since December 2022.
India will not play any more T20s before the start of 2024 T20 World Cup. So, it is safe to say the 2024 IPL will play a key role in deciding the fates of the wicketkeepers. Jitesh Sharma will be the frontrunner in this contest, with Sanju Samson closely behind him. No wicketkeeper has been able to nail a permanent spot after MS Dhoni’s retirement in 2019.
The Wicketkeepers for the 2024 T20 World Cup
The Indian management is spoilt for choice, with five wicketkeepers ready at their disposal. The options are:
1. Jitesh Sharma
Jitesh Sharma is the leader in terms of the wicketkeeping slot for the upcoming 2024 T2O Cricket World Cup. The 30 year old right-hander from Maharashtra has played in 4 of the last 5 T20 games for Team India. Sharma has played 9 times for India in this format. The Punjab Kings player had seven opportunities to bat. His highest score came against Australia in the 4th T20 series. Jitesh Sharma was a key member of the Indian team that secured a historic gold at the Asian Games 2023.
Jitesh is a player who can play at multiple positions up and down the order. However in the Indian national team setup, Jitesh has been employed as the number 5 batter in recent times. Sharma is a great player of spin with the natural ability to play shots all over the ground. His T20 strike rate is an impressive 147.05 in every 100 balls. The right wonder would look to improve his meager average of 14.28.
Jitesh Sharma has only appeared in only 2 T20I games outside of Asia, he has managed to score 5 runs in those 2 innings. So, lack of experience will be an issue for this wicketkeeper batsman. It will also a daunting task to face pace bowling on relatively quick surfaces in the Americas. With the rise of Rinku Singh in recent times, Jitesh Sharma is most likely to come at number five in the batting order. He would have to play the role of an achor and score quick runs by rotating the strike.
Jitesh Sharma was initially chosen as a Mumbai Indians player back in 2016-17 IPL season. However, he did not get the opportunity to take the field for his home IPL team. Since 2022, Sharma has been playing IPL for the Punjab Kings team. He has scored 543 runs in 26 appearances at an average of 25.9. His strike rate is the most attractive attribute; 159.2 is a clear indicator of the man’s power-hitting ability.
2. Sanju Samson
Sanju Viswanath is considered to be one of the unluckiest cricketers in recent times for India. The 31 year old has been a mainstay for the IPL franchise team. He made his debut at the age of just 18 back in 2013. Rajasthan Royals. Sanju Samson has scored more than 3,000 runs across eight seasons for the Rajasthan team. In 2021, Samson was appointed as the captain of Rajasthan Royal team. Samson caught the eye at the international level with his performance for India u-19 World Cup in 2012. He was the highest run getter for India at that tournament and the sixth highest on the overall list.
Sanju Samson made his debut for the Indian national team back in 2015 against Zimbabwe. But he would have to wait for four a half years for his next chance in this format. He has been a regular performer for his domestic Ranji side in Kerala. Samson has accumulated 3481 runs in his first-class career. He initially started as a red ball specialist. But he has adapted his game to excel in the T20 format. In 257 games of T20, Samson has scored 6190 runs at an average of 28.26. He has maintained a good strike of thete of 133.28. Samson is a right-handed batsman with a solid technique. His open stance style allows him to get into the right positions early and a strong bottom helps him generate more power in his shots. Samson is more adept at playing shots on the leg side, especially against quick bowlers.
3. Ishan Kishan
Ishan Kishan was considered the natural heir to MS Dhoni’s throne as the left-handed wicketkeeper batsman hails from the same state as the champion cricketer. Kishan was drafted as a fresh faced 17 year old by Gujarat Lions in the 2016 IPL auction. Kishan led the Indian U-19 side in the 2016 World Cup in Bangladesh. He failed to impress though, just scoring 73 runs in six innings. India ended up being the runner-up at that tournament, losing the final match to the West Indies. Kishan followed this impressive run with a prolific Ranji season with Jharkhand. He was the top scorer on the team with 799 runs. Kishan’s score of 273 still holds the record for the highest individual total for a Jharkhand batsman.
After making his debut in 2021, Kishan has appeared in an Indian shirt on 61 occasions across all three formats. His score of 210 against Bangladesh in December 2022 is the highest for someone making an ODI century. At 24 years and 145 days, Kishan is the youngest player ever to reach a double hundred in ODIs. Ishan Kishan played two games in the 2023 World Cup due to the absence of Shubman Gill. Kishan’s last game for India was back on November 28, 2023.
In the third T20 against Australia in Guwahati, Ishan went back to the pavilion for a duck. The 25 year old scored back to back half-centuries in the first T20 games against Australia. Kishan has played 32 times in the T20 format for India. He has scored a total of 796 runs at an average of 25.67. Kishan has played in the T20 at the top of the order. But there have been rumours circling around about the rift between the wicketkeeper and India’s team management. Kishan has taken leave from the international stage due to mental health issues. But some sources have stated that the talented southpaw has been excluded from the team due to disciplinary issues. It would take a fantastic IPL season to give Ishan Kishan an outside chance for the 2024 IPL season.
4. KL Rahul
KL Rahul is an elegant player who used to play the role of an emergency wicketkeeper for the national team. However, over the last 12 months, the 31-year from Karnataka has played as the main keeper in the longer formats of the game. KL Rahul has played in the last two T20 World Cups as an opening batsman with Rishabh Pant handling the responsibility of keeping the wickets.
In the 11 games that he played at this tournament, he has reached 50 on five occasions. Rahul has accumulated 322 runs from 11 matches at an average of 32.22. But Rahul has not played an international T20 game in 2023. The 2022 semi-final defeat against England. Rahul scored 5 runs on that day. But he scored back to back fifties in consecutive games before that. But KL Rahul is currently out of contention of the T20 side as he is playing in the longer versions of the game. The 2024 IPL will be a key tournament for Rahul if he wants to get back in the squad for the 2022 T20 World Cup. KL Rahul is a big player in this format with two international centuries. The right-hander has a fantastic IPL record. In this tournament, Rahul has scored 4163 runs at an outstanding average of 46.8. He has reached three figures on four occasions. The 134.4 strike rate indicates the stroke making ability of the right hander. India might pick someone else for the wicketkeeper slot, but the experience of Rahul is difficult to overlook.
5. Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant was the first choice wicketkeeper for India in the last two T20 World Cups. The southpaw from Uttrakhand was a major reason for India’s domination in the Test format with his swashbuckling bravado. The Delhi Capitals captain is a fearless batsman who can score runs at a rapid pace. He has scored more than 3000 runs at an strike rate of 148 in IPL. Rishabh Pant made his domestic debut at just 18 for Delhi. His numbers at the First Class level is outstanding: 4999 runs at an average of 48.50. Pant’s number in the international T20 format doesn’t do justice to his immense talent.
In 66 games, Pant has scored 987 runs at an average of 22.43. His strike rate of 126.37 is mediocre. But on this day, the 26 year old can demolish any bowling attack on his own. The wicketkeeper batsman played his last game in December 2022. Pant can consider him lucky to be still playing the game he loves after surviving a near fatal car crash. He is yet to appear in a competitive game in the last 13 months.
It would take some more time for Pant to get back to his full fitness. The good news is that Pant will be playing in the 2024 IPL. The 2024 T20 World Cup might have come too early for Rishabh Pant. But the Indian team management may feel tempted if Pant can perform in the IPL tournament. His elite stroke making and ability to change the game in just 30 minutes are rare attributes to find in a wicketkeeping batsman.
Wicketkeeper Stats Comparison
The five wicketkeepers offer different skillsets for the team. KL Rahul is the most experienced among the options. Rahul is also the one with the most runs, half centuries, centuries among the five. Rishabh Pant has the most number of dismissals. Jitesh Sharma has played less number of games than others. In the last two tournaments, Rishabh Pant was chosen as the main wicketkeeper of the team. Ishan Kishan and KL Rahul were selected as back-ups.
The 2024 T20 World Cup is just five months away, but India is yet to fix on the right wicketkeeper option for the World Cup squad. Five players will battle it out for two spots in the World Cup team. At the moment Jitesh Sharma and Sanju Samson are the top candidates for the two spots. But the 2024 IPL season will be a key factor in this selection. Whoever gets selected, the players will have a key role in bringing back the T20 World Cup trophy after 17 long years.