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ICC World Cup 2019: Rishabh Pant was almost there, we debated at length - MSK Prasad

ICC World Cup 2019: Prasad also said Karthik is also a backup for No 4 and is a better finisher under pressure. He had a decent 2018 Asia Cup with scores of 33, 31, 44 and 37.

cricket Updated: Apr 17, 2019 12:14 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
ICC World Cup 2019,Rishabh Pant,MSK Prasad
Mumbai: Chairman BCCI Selection Committee M.S.K. Prasad along with BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary address the media during a press conference at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019(PTI)

The logic behind the two most contentious selections of the day haven’t been convincing but Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar it is for this World Cup.

If experience and skill was the yardstick in picking Karthik over Rishabh Pant, Shankar’s inclusion should have another.

Chief selector MSK Prasad said at the press conference, preceded by a very brief selection meeting, that Karthik’s better keeping helped him pip Pant to the second wicket-keeper’s slot. This could be a direct fallout of Pant’s shoddy keeping in India’s last ODI series, against Australia, where Karthik had been dropped and MS Dhoni had withdrawn from the last two ODIs. Pant missed two stumping chances off Yuzvendra Chahal in the 44th over and India lost the game despite scoring 358.

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“It’s definitely a case where we have debated at length. And all of us, in unison, we felt that either Rishabh Pant or DK will come into the playing eleven if Mahi is injured,” Prasad said. “So at that juncture, if it is a crucial match like a quarter-final or a semi-final or an important game, wicket-keeping also matters. That’s the only reason we went with Dinesh Karthik. Otherwise, Rishabh Pant was almost there. Pant is full of talent, there’s lot of time for him. It’s just unfortunate that he missed out,” said Prasad.

Prasad also said Karthik is also a backup for No 4 and is a better finisher under pressure. He had a decent 2018 Asia Cup with scores of 33, 31, 44 and 37. In the Australia and New Zealand series that followed, he had innings of 12, 25*, 38* and 0 —not good enough to merit selection for the ODIs against Australia at home. He was duly dropped, and Pant came in.

Pant, on the other hand, has played five ODIs with 93 runs in four innings at an average of 23.2 with a highest score of 36. But what’s appealing is his strike rate that has consistently hovered above 100. Sources say that a couple of selectors were even convinced of his usefulness at No 4; being a left-handed batsman was a bonus.

The only innings Pant played at that position, he got 16 off 16 against Australia in Delhi. It can be argued that Pant has never had the freedom in ODIs that he enjoys in Tests, where he has been given the licence to go after bowlers. Given the right backing, he may have thrived in ODIs as well.

Equally debatable is the choice of Vijay Shankar for the No 4 spot. While Shankar was a strong candidate for the all-rounder’s spot, he has never batted at No 4 in ODIs. In nine ODIs, he has got 165 runs with a highest of 46. He has played a few good cameos but the role of a No 4 often demands a long, well-crafted and well-paced innings.

Here too, the explanation didn’t sound right.

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“After that Champions trophy, we have tried quite a few middle order batsmen, which also includes Dinesh Karthik. We also tried Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey,” Prasad said. “We did give a few more chances to Rayudu. But what Vijay Shankar offers is three-dimensional, apart from his batting he can bowl. If the conditions are overcast, which we might encounter in England, he might bowl a bit and he’s a fantastic fielder. That’s the thing that went in favour of him.”

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 19:43 IST