He’s full of beans

At 20, Bharat is the youngest of the top three wicketkeepers in the last domestic season. He accounted for 35 victims (28 catches and seven stumpings) and also excelled with the bat (558 runs from eight matches). J. R. Shridharan profiles the youngster from Andhra.

He is as good with his glove-work as he is with the willow. He is wont to disturb the concentration, and sometimes even ruffle the confidence of rival batsmen with mischievous words from behind the stumps — a practice prevalent among modern-day wicketkeepers. At 20, he is the youngest of the top three wicketkeepers (C. M. Gautam and Rohit Motwani are the others) in the last domestic season. Playing for Andhra, he accounted for 35 victims (28 catches and seven stumpings).

Meet K. Srikar Bharat, a livewire from Visakhapatnam, who, according to former India wicketkeeper M. S. K. Prasad, has all that it takes to become a future India ’keeper.

According to Prasad, Karnataka’s C. M. Gautam (50 victims) and Maharashtra’s Rohit Motwani (43) finished the last domestic season ahead of Bharat as they played more matches. Both their teams qualified for the knockout and the final. Bharat, on the other hand, played in only eight Group ‘C’ matches in the just-concluded Ranji season.

However, the Indian Premier League auction recently proved to be a disappointment for Bharat. Though short-listed, he was not picked by any of the franchises despite his encouraging work behind the stumps and with the bat. “A good wicketkeeper should also be a good batsman. Though Bharat excelled with the bat (558 runs from eight matches with five fifties and a highest score of 90), he failed to score big. He should show more patience and be discreet with his shot selection,” says Prasad.

An aggressive cricketer, Bharat often tests the grit of rival batsmen with his words and this has landed the player in trouble a couple of times. On his Ranji debut at Kadapa last season, he did not spare even the mercurial fast bowler K. Sreesanth of Kerala!

Many ACA (Andhra Cricket Association) administrators are of the view that the flamboyant opener’s strength is his ability to meet the ball late; his devil-may-care attitude and flexibility. “The lad always wants to dominate the bowlers. He unsettles the bowlers with his varied stroke-play on both side of the wickets,” says the Andhra Ranji skipper, Vincent Vinay Kumar.

“He wants to be in the thick of action. He always anticipates a catch or a stumping. He is very good while keeping wickets to fast bowlers,” says Nirmal Kumar, an ACA coach attached to North Zone Academy in Vizianagaram.

The National Cricket Academy Level III coach J. Krishna Rao first spotted Bharat as a nine-year-old playing a match in Visakhapatnam. “Actually he was a middle-order batsman. When a selector asked him to open in a junior grade match at Venkatagiri in 2010, Bharat grabbed the opportunity and slammed a century before lunch. Thus he became an opener,” recollects Krishna Rao. Interestingly, he became a wicketkeeper too by accident. When no one was around to keep wickets in a practice session, Bharat padded up as per the instructions of Krishna Rao.

Bharat’s over-enthusiasm, however, is a cause for worry for the ACA. He has already been reprimanded by the match referees. “Boys like Bharat need mentoring. As they lack exposure and maturity, the administrators should guide them and make them understand that they need to mellow down,” reckons the former India batsman V. V. S. Laxman.