Former India chief coach Ravi Shastri feels K.S. Bharat would be the "obvious choice" of the team management for the wicketkeeper's role in the World Test Championship final against Australia to be played in England next month.
With India's first-choice wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant recovering from a horrific car crash and his back-up K.L. Rahul recuperating from a surgery on his right thigh, the Indian team management is in a dilemma on who to select between Bharat and Ishan Kishan as its first-choice gloveman for the WTC final at The Oval starting June 7.
Shastri said since Bharat had kept wickets during the Border-Gavaskar series earlier this year, he expected the 29-year-old to get the management's nod ahead of Kishan.
"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," Shastri said on the ICC Review. While Bharat gave a good account of himself behind the stumps, he was below par with the bat, managing just 101 runs from six innings on turning tracks.
Kishan, on the other hand, didn't get the opportunity against Australia and was drafted into the WTC final squad after Rahul's injury during the IPL.
Shastri indicated that the playing conditions at the WTC final venue would ultimately decide which wicketkeeper ultimately gets to play. "See, that's another tight one (decision). Now, if two spinners are playing, then you would want Bharat to play," said Shastri.
Though Bharat has played just four Tests, his domestic experience of 90 first-class games in the longer format could also tilt the scale in his favour. Kishan, on the other hand, is yet to make his Test debut and has 48 first-class appearances.
However, the young wicketkeeper has accomplished more with the bat than Bharat, having scored an ODI double-century against Bangladesh in Chattogram late last year.
The left-handed batter also brings variety in an otherwise right-hand dominant batting line-up and the former India coach said there is not much separating the two cricketers.
"There's not much there. It's not that one guy is far better than the other. 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," said Shastri.
"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," he added.
Veteran India and Royal Challengers Bangalore wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik felt Bharat's experience should make him the automatic choice for the WTC final. "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," said Karthik.
"And the fact that K.S. 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 Bharat for the final," he said.