Former India coach Ravi Shastri believes uncapped youngster Ishan Kishan remains in the mix to challenge KS Bharat and take the crucial role of wicket-keeper for next month's ICC World Test Championship final against Australia, but experienced gloveman Dinesh Karthik thinks the choice is clear cut.
Injuries to key players, including first-choice wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant and back-up KL Rahul, has put the Indian setup in quite the dilemma ahead of the all-important one-off Test against Australia that commences at The Oval on June 7.
Bharat remains the incumbent after he was chosen to don the gloves for the recent Border-Gavaskar Test series and the 29-year-old gave a very good account of himself as wicket-keeper but failed to show his full prowess with the bat, as he managed just 101 runs from six innings in difficult conditions.
Kishan warmed the benches during the four-match Test series against Australia and was only drafted into the World Test Championship squad after Rahul picked up an injury during the IPL and was ruled out of the one-off affair.
Shastri was asked which wicket-keeper was in the box seat to take the gloves against the Aussies by host Sanjana Ganesan on the latest episode of The ICC Review and the India legend said the choice of keeper ultimately rested on the conditions the south London venue will have on offer.
“See, that's another tight one (decision). Now, if two spinners are playing, then you would want Bharat to play,” Shastri said.
“You have to see who's a better keeper. Is it Bharat or Ishan Kishan? Now, the fact that Bharat was given a run against Australia, where he played all the Test matches, I think he would be the obvious choice to go with.”
Though 29-year-old Bharat has played only four Test matches so far, he has the experience of 90 first-class games in the longer format unlike Kishan, who is yet to make his debut in Tests and has only 48 first-class appearances behind him.
While Bharat has shown to be the better gloveman of the two thus far, the less experienced Kishan is clearly a more accomplished batter and already has an ODI double-century to his name following his superb innings of 210 against Bangladesh in Chattogram at the end of last year.
The southpaw also lends a bit of left-handed diversity in an otherwise right-hand dominant India batting line-up and Shastri said there is not much between the pair.
“There's not much there. It's not that one guy is far better than the other,” Shastri added.
"Batting will also come into play, whether you want Ishan Kishan's batting to shore up the middle order. That's another thing you'll take into perspective.
“Are you going to go with four fast bowlers? Then there's not much spin and you just need someone decent behind the stumps to do the job.
“So that you would leave to team management. Just before the game, they would weigh in just these little things that I've just said, and obviously look at current form."
Karthik, however, thinks the selection is a simple one, with the veteran wicket-keeper - who has completed playing in the IPL for the Royal Challengers Bangalore - choosing the experience of Bharat for the big occasion.
"I think Bharat will be a pretty straightforward choice because playing Ishan Kishan in his debut and a Test match straight in the World Test Championship Final is asking a bit too much,” Karthik said.
"And the fact that KS Bharat probably tips the scale in favour of himself just a little bit with this keeping edge that he has got. So I do think they will go in with KS Bharat for the final."