Parthiv Patel: India’s Second Best Keeper?

When Indian legend Mahendra Singh Dohni retired from Test cricket in 2014, he left a seemingly large gap in the side. However, Wriddhiman Saha took the gloves and has flourished. Saha has not only excelled with the gloves, barely dropping any catches, but also with the bat. When Saha was ruled out of the third India vs England Test Match, India had to find another keeper. They turned to a veteran who had not played Test cricket for eight years. Indeed, Parthiv Patel’s career experienced a sudden revival.

Successful Return

Patel had an amazing comeback Test match. He contributed well with the bat, producing scores of 42 and a quick unbeaten 67. Moreover, his glovework was exceptional on the whole. Patel took an excellent catch to dismiss Jonny Bairstow, staying low and collecting the ball close to the ground off the equally impressive Jayant Yadav. However, there is one slight criticism that arose. Patel stood too far back in the first innings to the seamers which cost India occasionally. As a result of this, not many balls were carrying to him and made it awkward for him to take.

Therefore, due to his fine performance there is talk of him being retained in the squad, possibly as a specialist batsman. Although he has clearly succeeded, did he deserve to be called up as the second best keeper in India?

Young Talents

While Patel is clearly experienced, India could have turned to the young keeper Rishabh Pant. Pant, who represents Delhi domestically, has been this season’s leading run scorer so far in the Ranji Trophy. At the age of just 19, he has scored 874 runs in just 8 matches at an average of around 90. These figures are phenomenal and shows that he is extremely talented. However, Pant has never represented India internationally, and to pit him against a fiery England side could have been reckless. Nevertheless, that is what some pessimists said about Haseeb Hameed and he has been phenomenal so far. Therefore, it is quite possible that the Indian selectors missed a trick by overlooking Pant, since they need a new young long-term keeper.

DHAKA, BANGLADESH – FEBRUARY 09: Rishabh Pant of India bats during the ICC U19 World Cup Semi-Final match between India and Sri Lanka on February 9, 2016 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Pal Pillai/Getty Images for Nissan)

Based on current form, there is a strong case for Haryana keeper Nitin Saini. Saini has scored the second most runs in this year’s tournament and has looked extremely impressive. Unlike Pant, Saini is very experienced and has been in the domestic circuit for a while. Having played over 74 first-class matches, Saini has often been overlooked unfairly and never given a chance. On flat pitches, it could have been worth allowing Saini to finally have an opportunity to represent India on the highest arena.

Veteran Keepers

However, if the Indian selectors were only concerned with experienced and proven players, they could have easily selected Robin Uthappa. Uthappa, from Karnataka, is the same age as Patel and has represented India on numerous more occasions than his Mumbai counterpart. Uthappa was once India’s first-choice Test opener and has played 46 Tests for India. Furthermore, his domestic form was similar to Patel’s and has looked solid behind the stumps this season. Historically, Uthappa has always been favoured by the selectors but it appears that this is no longer the case. As he said in an interview earlier this year, Uthappa still has the desire to represent India. In this case the selectors overlooked him in a move which was quite harsh. With Uthappa being by far more experienced and better behind the stumps, he could easily be seen as the second best keeper in India.

File photo of India’s Robin Uthappa (Getty Images)

Dinesh Karthik was another potential option for selectors. Karthik, also 31 years of age, has had the best domestic form out of all the veteran keepers. Recent scores of 54, 80, 65 and 95 shows his how easily he is scoring runs this year. Unfortunately, the Tamil Nadu star suffered a hair-line fracture on one of his fingers on his right hand. This happened at the worst possible time for him. His injury meant that he would not be have been able to play in the recently concluded Test match and was therefore no longer considered by the selectors. This was a huge disappointment to him, as there was a strong possibility that he would have actually been favoured over Patel if fit.

The Wrong Successful Replacement

India are lucky enough to have an extremely talented keeper in Wriddhiman Saha at the moment. However, Saha is not young himself at 32, and India need to line up a potential young replacement for him. As seen earlier, there are numerous bright prospects for India but it is essential they are given experience while they are still young. Patel is extremely lucky to have been given a second chance. Personally, the option of Robin Uthappa seemed to be a better option due to his greater bank of experience.

Moreover, if Dinesh Karthik was fit to play it is likely that he would have played ahead of Patel. Most importantly, however, is the fact that Patel did an incredible job for India. The way in which he played merits an inclusion in the squad, even as a specialist batsman. He has taken an opportunity and seized it, which may even give him an international career again.