Two sets of teams were announced on Friday by the All-India Senior Selection Committee- one for the two Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) series and the other for the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) versus Australia. With the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 scheduled to begin in May, all eyes will keenly follow the ODI set up which is expected to be a mirror image of the 15-man squad expected to catch the UK bound flight.
Selectors have divided the ODI squad into two halves- one for the first two ODIs and then the next three. The only change in between the two is that Siddarth Kaul will be replaced by Bhuvneshwar Kumar after first two encounters. Along with Kumar, who has been rested, Kuldeep Yadav also gets time off.
KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant come into the squad but the most notable omission is that of wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik. Cricket fraternity at large has expressed anguish on this move and the question doing the rounds is whether this the end of the road for the 33-year-old?
Since 2018 in ODIs, Karthik has played 10 matches and registered scores of 21, 33, 31 not out, 1 not out, 44, 37, 12, 25 not out, 38 not out and 0. Despite coming in to bat at a tricky position of no 6, Karthik has made meaningful contributions (if not centuries) and most importantly times when his team needed it.
Given the role of a finisher, time and again he has shown the temperament needed for that slot. One might question his failure in the T20I against New Zealand in Hamilton but that is a not a common occurrence. A throwback to the previous series Down Under, reveals how he helped India draw level in the must-win ODI at Adelaide. Once again batting at number 6, he forged a match-winning partnership with MS Dhoni and remained unbeaten on 25 of 14 balls.
Even in T20Is, Karthik has shown good form. His famous knock to help India lift the Nidahas Trophy is hard to forget. Most interestingly Karthik is among the top three batsmen with the highest number of not-outs (7) in a successful run-chase.
Just going through some batting numbers of @DineshKarthik over the last 18 months and its not surprising to see that he has become one of the best finishers in the world right now. This version of DK is all that he ever wanted to be, I am very happy for him. 👏#INDvsAUS
— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) 16 January 2019
Karthik does not boast of a power game. But what works in his favour is his ability to play with the bowler’s mind and maneuver the field as per his convenience. His creativity is what sets him apart from his contemporaries.
Rishabh Pant has been included in the side with a view that he can provide the surprise element and also because a southpaw brings variety in the batting order. Being the finisher in a cricket team involves a lot of pressure and questions still persist whether a young Rishabh Pant can carry it responsibly in a major tournament like the World Cup.
With the inclusion of Vijay Shankar, the complexion has got a little bit more complicated for Karthik but has KL Rahul, who is possibly playing the role of a back-up opener, done enough to warrant a ticket to UK at the expense of Karthik? Based on form and track record, Karthik’s exclusion seems a bit unfair but chief selector MSK Prasad has not ruled him out yet.
Speaking at the press conference in Mumbai, Prasad said, “Prior to this we had two series in New Zealand and Australia, that is where Karthik was chosen,” he said on Friday. “Because Rishabh played four Test matches, so we wanted him to get a good break. He had a 20 days’ break.”
“Then he played a couple of one-day matches against England Lions, in which he did extremely well. Then we sent him to the T20 matches (in New Zealand). So we want to give him a few ODIs also before taking a final call,” he explained.
A lot of answers will come out as when the ODIs against Kangaroos begin. How Virat Kohli rotates his playing XI will definitely reveal a few unanswered queries. However, for now, the door is still ajar for Karthik. Unfortunately, his fate also depends on how the likes of Rahul and Pant deliver in the upcoming series. In case they perish then the think tank surely has to go for Karthik.
Will DK make the cut or will he miss the bus? For now it a matter of conjecture and only time has the best answer.
India’s squad for 1st and 2nd ODI: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Siddharth Kaul, KL Rahul
India’s squad for remaining three ODIs: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Vijay Shankar, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant
India’s T20I squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Siddharth Kaul, Mayank Markande