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Ahead of Australia tour, one mystery remains unsolved, who is MS Dhoni's alternative behind the stumps?

Rishabh Pant didn't get to keep wickets in any of the three T20Is versus West Indies ahead of the Australia series.

Written by: Aditya Maheshwari, New Delhi [ Published on: November 19, 2018 19:20 IST ]
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Ahead of Australia tour, one mystery remains unsolved, who is MS Dhoni's alternative behind the stumps?

India dominated West Indies and whitewashed the visitors 3-0 in the T20 series as they prepared for the tour of Australia, which starts on November 21. 

Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav was picked as Man of the Series for his outstanding performance with the ball in the first two matches while stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma thrashed the Windies bowler in the second match and scored his record fourth T20I century to overtake Colin Munro in the charts. 

Opener Shikhar Dhawan also came back to the form with 92 in the Chennai match after the flop show in ODI series. Young left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed also showed a lot of prominence with the new ball. 

These were the positives going into the long series Down Under and a World Cup year in 2019 but one issue remained and that is wicketkeeping.

While chief selector MSK Prasad said that Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik will be looked at in the T20s when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was omitted from the squads against Windies and Australia.

 
Karthik kept wickets in all three T20Is while Pant played as a batsman and did play his part in the last T20I with a match-winning fifty 58 in Chennai.

But the general belief was Pant was being prepared as the keeper for the T20 series as well as the future as Dhoni's chances of playing beyond the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales is very little.
 
Karthik kept the gloves quite well in the series but the question arises then why the statements regarding Rishabh will get more opportunities as wicketkeeper to improve his skills for Test cricket were  made. The questions made even more sense because Virat Kohli had backed Pant to keep wickets in T20s when asked about Dhoni being 'dropped' from the squad.

"He's still a very integral part of this team and he just feels that in the T20 format, someone like Rishabh can get more chances," Kohli said after the fifth and final ODI against the Windies. 
 
The Roorkee born is definitely India's future in all three formats and is now an integral part of Test team but his keeping deficiencies showed in England and it's necessary for him to work on it. While he has improved with time, the opportunity to keep to Kuldeep and Chahal ahead of the Australia tour was a golden opportunity for the Southpaw during the Windies T20s.

While it remains to be seen, who keeps in Australia, Pant playing as a batsman ahead of Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey makes little sense if he isn't donning the gloves. One might argue that Pant deserves a place in the side just for his batting, which is fair enough, but so could be said about Iyer and Manish, who have been with the side for a while now. Also, the fact that DK made a comeback into the Indian side as a batter and not a keeper makes Pant's case weaker in terms of playing as a specialist batsman.

Since DK kept wickets against Windies, one assumes Pant would against Australia because that not only serves well for him but for the future of Indian cricket as well. Especially with Kohli in charge, Pant's chances of donning the gloves looks likelier when the two sides meet in the first T20I of the three-match series at the Gabba on Wednesday.

If not, Dhoni's 'sacrifice' won't make any sense.

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