World Cup squad: Pant misses out, Vijay Shankar to fit into No. 4 slot

Rishabh Pant

Chennai: The World Cup selection committee came out with a surprise as Tamilnadu lads, Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar, were included in the 15-member Indian squad for the upcoming 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup to be played in England and Wales from May 30.

With 11 spots sealed even before the last ODI series against Australia, India was still searching for a batsman at No. 4, a back-up wicket-keeper, third spinner and a back-up opener. With a lot of players up for grabs in those positions, cricket enthusiasts were working out a lot of combinations to suit the World Cup squad. Now, with the inclusion of Vijay Shankar, K L Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Karthik, Indian selectors have finally given an answer to all speculations.

Vijay Shankar

VIJAY SHANKAR AND K L RAHUL

Ever since the last World Cup, India have been searching for a batsman to seal his spot at No. 4. Having tried out different batsmen like Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer, none of the batsmen could make the spot his own.

Just a few months before the World Cup, Rayudu made a return to the national side during the Asia Cup last year and played at No. 3 due to the absence of Virat Kohli.

At No. 4, Rayudu did well in the ODI series against West Indies at home, smashing a 100 and 50. Kohli also backed Rayudu at the time, saying, “We believe he is the right person to capitalise on that spot. He is experienced and has won many games for his State and also in the IPL. He has a great ODI record already for India. I think the batting order is sorted.”

However, Rayudu could not replicate the same form overseas, when India toured New Zealand and Australia.

Vijay Shankar, on the other hand, showed his batting prowess with crucial knocks against Australia in the home series and the away series against New Zealand. Also his ability to chip in with a few overs and good fielding ability has convinced the selectors to drop Rayudu and bring in Vijay Shankar for the No. 4 slot.

Chief selector M S K Prasad had claimed that Shankar adds new “dynamics” to the batting line-up and has the ability to excel under pressure. With Shankar, India will also have a deep batting order in the World Cup.

With K L Rahul, who has returned to form in the IPL, smashing a century and two 50s, India now have options for the No. 4 spot. Rahul is also a batsman who can open the innings and play at No. 4, based on the conditions. Prasad, however, said Rahul has only been named as the back-up opener, so, in all probability, Shankar will play at No. 4.

Dinesh Karthik

DK TRUMPS PANT

Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik – the two names attracted a lot of attention as to who would be the understudy keeper to Dhoni during the World Cup. Dinesh Karthik, over the past year, has earned a reputation as a good lower-order batsman finishing off games with ease.

His eight-ball 28-run knock in the Nidhahas Trophy, helped India clinch a miraculous victory last year and it is still fresh in everyone’s mind, that adds to his repertoire. His experience behind the stumps came in handy for his automatic selection to the World Cup team.

However, Dinesh Karthik was dropped from the ODI squad during the home series against Australia as Pant was preferred. Pant has made rapid strides ever since he made his debut during the Test series against England last year and his inclusion in the series gave an impression that DK will be overlooked and Pant will be groomed for the World Cup.

Touted to be India’s future, his being a dasher and a left-hander favoured him. While people were criticising him for his inexperience behind the stumps and inability to finish off games, DK’s poor form, too, in the ongoing IPL made Pant the front-runner for World Cup.

The selection of Dinesh Karthik, however, has now come as a surprise as the selectors have gone in for experience behind the stumps. Dinesh Karthik will now be playing in his second World Cup, 12 years after featuring in the 2007 edition.

The inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja, however, was expected as he has been performing well ever since his recall into the ODI side during the Asia Cup.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja were both excluded as the young wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were preferred as they began bamboozling batsmen.

Left-arm spinner’s spot was also taken up by Axar Patel. But Axar’s injury during the Asia Cup helped Jadeja come back into the side and his being an excellent fielder at point has now helped him be selected for the World Cup.

Aaditya Anand M