India head coach Rahul Dravid on Monday took a striking U-turn on his previously-made “domestic cricket” suggestion for Ishan Kishan when he addressed the media at the end of the second Test against England, where India won by an emphatic margin of 106 runs in Visakhapatnam. Dropping a subtle “Rishabh Pant” hint, Dravid’s statement came in response to a query on Ishan’s possible return to international cricket after the wicketkeeper-batter had opted for a break from the relentless cricketing schedule last December, reportedly due to “mental fatigue”.
There was an opening for Ishan earlier last month when the team management confirmed KL Rahul had been relieved of wicketkeeping duties in Test cricket. The 25-year-old hence had the chance to earn a direct place in the India XI for the Test series against England. But Dravid clarified that while the team management respected his decision to take a break, he would only be back if he proved his fitness in a first-class match.
“Ishan requested for a break, which we agreed in South Africa. We supported it. He has not yet made himself available. When he is available, he will play domestic cricket and make himself available for selection,” Dravid told reporters in Mohali on the eve of first T20I against Afghanistan.
The former India captain, however, clarified his “domestic cricket” statement on Tuesday, saying that he wants Ishan to play any form of competitive cricket before making himself available for Team India selection. He further added that the team management is putting no pressure on him to make a comeback and that they are in constant touch with the youngster over his progress.
“There is a way back for anyone and everyone. It’s not that we rule out anybody from anything,” Dravid told the press in Vizag. “Again, I just don’t want to go on laboring about the Ishan Kishan point. I have tried to explain this as best as I can. He had requested a break, we were happy to give him a break.
“Whenever he is ready, I didn’t say he has to play domestic cricket, I said whenever he is ready… he needs to play some cricket and come back. The choice is his. We are not forcing him to do anything. We are in touch with him.
“We know what it is. He hasn’t yet started playing, right? At the moment, it’s not something that we would consider. He is maybe not ready. He decides when he wants to be ready,” he added.
Dravid further dropped a mention that India do have a plethora of wicketkeeping options to pick from, hinting that it won’t be a direct selection for Ishan into the India squad. Besides India eagerly awaiting an update on Pant’s fitness, they have added Dhruv Jurel as a back-up option for the Test series against England.
“We have got options with Rishabh injured and stuff. The selectors will consider all this and take a call,” he added.
Following Dravid’s earlier statement, Ishan was expected to make himself available for the Jharkhand side in Ranji Trophy 2024, but he missed five matches from the domestic tournament. It is yet to be seen whether Ishan will play for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024.