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KS Bharat: India A experience prepares players for international cricket

The keeper-batter on an official India debut: "There are no shortcuts to get there"

Daya Sagar
Daya Sagar
KS Bharat made 74* against New Zealand A in Hubballi  •  Manoj Bookanakere/KSCA

KS Bharat made 74* against New Zealand A in Hubballi  •  Manoj Bookanakere/KSCA

Wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat earned his maiden India A call-up in July 2018. In November 2019, he was part of an Indian Test squad for the first time. Since then, he has been a regular member of A teams and the India Test squads, but is still waiting for his official India debut.
That doesn't deter Bharat, though. He believes in the age-old philosophy of 'que sera sera' [Whatever Will Be, Will Be]. He sounds philosophical as he says, "It is easy to get emotional or disappointed, but what matters to me is to put in the hard yards. As long as I am doing that, I am happy. To be successful in any field, you need patience. There are no shortcuts to get there. I am just doing what I can and leaving the decisions to those who are supposed to do that."
Bharat has been India A's preferred keeper during the ongoing unofficial Tests against New Zealand A. He got his first lengthy opportunity with the bat in the rain-affected game in Hubballi, and scored an unbeaten 74 and later took the catch of Joe Carter, the first-match hero, as the first of only two wickets to have fallen. After the game, Bharat espoused the importance of the A program for budding cricketers.
"Over the past four years, I have been a part of several A tours," says Bharat. "It provides great exposure and I believe it has really helped a lot of cricketers be ready for that step up to international cricket. These matches teach you all about how to cope with situations that you are likely to face when you play for India. VVS sir [current India A coach VVS Laxman] called this the platform to test our readiness for the highest level. Before this even [Rahul] Dravid sir used to often reiterate that this was the best way to prepare to give our best in any situation.
"For instance, when I got the chance to keep in the Test against New Zealand last year, I wasn't overawed by the situation because I had played with or against several of the players before then. This is the aim of the A tour: to make sure you aren't caught out when you play for the national team. And we've also had several internationals come and play with us on the A team, for instance we have Kuldeep Yadav and Shardul Thakur here. Some senior players have also been a part of our dressing rooms on A tours, and that also makes you comfortable when you walk into the India dressing room."
Bharat got that exposure to the India dressing room during the Kanpur Test in November 2021 against New Zealand. He replaced the injured Wriddhiman Saha, and helped himself to three catches even though it won't go down as a Test cap for him. 2021 was especially memorable for Bharat, as he got a good run in the Indian Premier League with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and also celebrated his 191 runs at an average of 38 in the UAE leg with a couple of match-winning knocks.
"During the lockdown, I got a chance to work on my T20 skills," says Bharat. "I worked on some different routines as I understood my game a bit better. Playing for RCB was a privilege too. Getting to practice and spend time with Virat [Kohli], AB [de Villiers] and [Glenn] Maxwell was a great education in itself. I took a lot of confidence from that and it got reflected in the way I batted there."
A shift to Delhi Capitals in 2022 saw opportunities dry up for Bharat, hardly a surprise considering the franchise is led by an Indian wicketkeeper-batter in Rishabh Pant. "I think you have to take non-selection as a constructive thing at times," says Bharat. "You will stagnate as a player if you take it in a negative light.
"My concern is always in ensuring my team wins on any given day, whether I am a part of the XI or not. The team on any given day is dependent on conditions and the specific team-composition requirements. When a franchise selects 22 to 25 players, it means they have faith in their abilities.
"You just have to wait for your turn. And there are never any shortcuts to that."
This story was first published on the ESPNcricinfo Hindi edition

Daya Sagar is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo Hindi