The only notable omission, as the MSK Prasad-led selection announced the 15-member Indian World Cup squad, was Rishabh Pant. Given the hype around him and a Rs 5-crore central contract, the Delhi-based ‘keeper-batsman seemingly had his nose in front against his nearest rival Dinesh Karthik, at least on social media. The five wise men of Indian cricket chose Karthik instead.
Karthik trumped Pant because the selectors wanted to have a proper ‘keeper as MS Dhoni’s backup. As Prasad said at the press conference: “We all were in unison that either Pant or DK will come in only when Mahi is injured. In an important game, wicket-keeping is also important. That’s the reason we went with Dinesh Karthik.
Karthik is a veteran who made his international debut in 2004. Pant, in comparison, is still a work in progress. Little wonder then that the selectors chose to play it safe for a tournament like World Cup. The quadrennial showpiece can make or break careers. Pant is just 21 years old. A bad World Cup at this stage could have jeopardised the future of this extremely talented cricketer. Remember, how the Mohali crowd booed him after a couple of lapses during the recent home ODI series against Australia. With time on his side, this, in fact, is a blessing in disguise for the youngster.
Why Vijay Shankar was picked over Rayudu
Ambati Rayudu’s exclusion was down to the fact that the selectors and the team management sought multi-dimensional cricket from a No. 4. “Vijay Shankar gives three dimensions. He can bat, if the conditions are overcast he can bowl, plus he is a fielder,” Prasad said. The other option in the No. 4 position, Kedar Jadhav, too, can chip in with his low-arm, slingy off-spin in the middle-overs. Rayudu played 21 ODIs after he was brought back to the fold in September last year. His technique in overseas conditions didn’t inspire confidence. The manner of his dismissals also put his temperament under the scanner.
KL Rahul has been picked as a reserve opener. If the need arises, he can be used at No. 4 as well, because he has played in that position in the recent past. And with Hardik Pandya and Shankar in the squad, India didn’t require an extra seamer. Ravindra Jadeja’s selection as the third spinner was expected, given his experience and his all-round ability. Also, as the chief selector mentioned, towards the back end of the tournament, the pitches in England could be a little drier.