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Under the spotlight, Ishan Kishan makes lacklustre T20 return

After dropping out of the South African tour for personal reasons, he also stayed away from the Ranji Trophy

Nine weeks after being released from the Indian Test squad in South Africa for ‘personal reasons’, Ishan Kishan returned to action at the nondescript university ground adjoining the D Y Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai on Tuesday, turning up for his employers RBI at the D Y Patil T20 Cup – a timely preparatory competition for the IPL that begins on March 22.

Coming out to bat wearing his India helmet after keeping wickets for 20 overs, the left-hander wasn’t at his fluent best

Coming out to bat wearing his India helmet after keeping wickets for 20 overs, the left-hander wasn’t at his fluent best – he played-and-missed a few, sent one off-spinners’ delivery over the boundary, before holing out to mid-off on 19 (11b).

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From the time a BCCI media release made it known last December, that Kishan wanted a personal break, there has been much conjecture over his absence. After leaving South African shores, Kishan enjoyed his Christmas holiday with his brother and friends in Dubai, which didn’t go down well with the BCCI.

The team management and the selectors had expected Kishan to turn up for his state team Jharkhand in the Ranji trophy once he had recovered. Instead, the 25-year-old chose to go to Baroda, where he underwent fitness drills and practiced with his IPL captain Hardik Pandya.

People close to Kishan say that he was frustrated by the lenght of time he spent on the bench (across formats) through 2023 despite his ODI double ton in late 2022.

Things blew up when Kishan was benched in the December T20Is in South Africa and power-hitter Jitesh Sharma was preferred. The message from the team management was clear; they were searching for a lower-order hard-hitter and Kishan, a top-order batter wasn’t in the scheme of things for the 2024 T20 World Cup.

In the same tour, KL Rahul was tipped to drop down in the middle-order and play as wicket-keeper in the Test series. This, despite Kishan having made a sound Test debut in the previous series in West Indies.

A BCCI official says, the decision was taken after Kishan was reluctant to stay on for the tour. Those close to Kishan say, the decision had already been made.

One way or the other, the Kishan saga has opened a can of worms and gave rise to the narrative of players prioritising IPL over Test cricket.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah wrote to contracted players and those on the targeted list, earlier in the month that, ‘performance in domestic tournaments is the only yardstick for selection, and non-participation could lead to severe implications.’

Although Shah told reporters, it wasn’t intended for any player in particular, the message was clear. Indian captain Rohit Sharma drove the message home after the Ranchi Test match.

“We will give opportunities to only those who are hungry for Test cricket. There’s no point in playing those who don’t have the hunger,” he said.


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