The moment of reckoning for Andhra wicketkeeper-batter K.S. Bharat finally arrived at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur when the emerging cricketer earned an India cap against Australia in the first Test of the high-octane four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Thursday.
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And, one gentleman who is sitting happily far away from Orange City is M.S.K Prasad, the ex-BCCI senior selection committee chairman. Prasad was the first cricketer from Andhra to play for India, interestingly as a wicketkeeper.
“Yes, this is a great day not only for Bharat but also for Andhra cricket. These are the things which should inspire everyone connected with the game at the State-level to invest more in developing the sport with the hope of producing more and more cricketers,” Prasad told Sportstar.
“I am really happy and have been waiting for this moment ever since he was drafted into the Test squad as a backup for the injured (Wriddhiman) Saha in 2019,” he said.
“The fact that the long wait has never diminished either his passion or his commitment is proof of his grit and determination to play for India,” Prasad added.
He also feels that Bharat would seal his place in the Indian team as a wicketkeeper after this series as Rishabh Pant is still recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident.
“From day one when we saw Bharat as an 11-year-old kid, we knew that he would be a quality wicketkeeper. And, I believe that it is this department that should help him seal a berth in the Indian team after this series,” Prasad said.
“Obviously, to play for your country you have to wait for the big opportunity. I am glad that he got it against a very good opposition and a decent performance will only further increase his chances of making the wicketkeeper’s slot his own due to the unfortunate accident with Rishabh Pant,” he explained.
“Bharat’s batting will be very handy for sure and please do remember that he is the first wicketkeeper in Ranji Trophy to hit a triple century. But, I always believe that wicketkeeping is his strong point.”
‘Product of the system’
“Definitely, Bharat is a product of the system that was set in process since I took over as selection panel chief in 2016. Myself, Rahul (Dravid) and Ravi (Shastri - then head coach) ensured there is a seamless transition to the senior level by having regular meetings with the support staff and the players who are in the reckoning also,” Prasad said.
“Well, the kind of exposure players like Gill, Iyer, Siraj to name a few got through India A series is one of the reasons for India having such fabulous bench strength,” he added.
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Reflecting on the impact of Bharat’s selection on Andhra cricket, MSK reminded that ACA’s investment in setting up academies across all the districts of the State has certainly paid huge dividends.
“Hats off to the support staff and officials at all these centres for these results. If you see, even in women’s cricket we have players like Sneha, Kalpana, Meghana, Anjali, and in boys India under-19 players like S.K. Rasheed,” he said.
For the record, Bharat happens to be the third cricketer from Andhra to play Test cricket for India after M.S.K. Prasad and Hanuma Vihari (who actually moved over from Hyderabad to Andhra).