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Pant’s exclusion, Shankar and Rahul’s roles: What MSK Prasad said about India’s World Cup squad

The young wicketkeeper’s exclusion came as a surprise to many while Vijay Shankar’s all-round skills pipped Ambati Rayudu.

Pant’s exclusion, Shankar and Rahul’s roles: What MSK Prasad said about India’s World Cup squad
KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant | AFP

Wicketkeeping skills and handling of pressure were key factors in Dinesh Karthik getting the nod over rising star Rishabh Pant in India’s World Cup squad, the Board of control for Cricket in India’s chairman of selectors MSK Prasad said in Mumbai on Monday.

Pant’s exclusion came as the biggest shock after the young left-hander meteoric rise saw him play across formats over the past year. Before the start of the Indian Premier League, Karthik was left out of the One-day International squad, and at that time it seemed like Pant would make the cut.

“It was definitely a case where we debated [at] length,” MSK Prasad said. “We all [agreed] that either Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik will come in only when [Dhoni] is injured. In an important game, wicketkeeping is also important. That’s the reason we went with Dinesh Karthik. That is the only reason why we went ahead with DK otherwise Pant was almost there. Pant is full of talent, he has time on his hands. Unfortunately he missed out.”

With Prasad insisting that Karthik was selected as a reserve keeper, KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar have emerged as the favourites to take the problematic No 4 spot. The former India keeper had a different take on it: “To begin with KL [Rahul] will be reserve opener, if the need arises [for him to play at No 4] the team management will take a call.”

At the moment at least, it seems to be Vijay Shankar – who earned a place in the side ahead of Ambati Rayudu – who will be batting at two-down.

“After the Champions Trophy [2017], we tried quite a few people in that position,” Prasad said. “Tried quite a few middle-order batsmen, which also included Karthik, [Shreyas] Iyer and Manish Pandey. We did give a few more chances to Rayudu but Shankar gives three dimensions. He can bat, if conditions are overcast he can bowl, plus he is a fielder. We are looking at Shankar as a No 4 [option].

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“The point that was discussed is that Vijay Shankar can bat at No 4, like Kedar Jadhav and we also have a role for KL somewhere at the top of the order. It all depends on the team management,” the former India wicketkeeper said.

Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round skills and his ability to be restrictive on dry wickets came into consideration during his selection in the 15.

“In the last one and half years, it is these two wristies (wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav), who have won us the games but there might be situations where, you require an additional all-rounder in the playing 11, (this is) where Jadeja comes in,” Prasad explained.

“And in the second part of the tournament, when the wickets will be more dry, we felt Jadeja will be handy.”

Hardik Pandya has struggled with injuries after the Asia Cup last year but Prasad said that those worries are a thing of the past. He also revealed that the BCCI selectors toyed with the idea of picking left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed. Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini was also in the mix.

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Prasad said, “Hardik [Pandya]’s back injury is not as bad as it is. It is only on a precautionary note that we rested him for the Australia series. Khaleel Ahmed was discussed as an option and so was Navdeep Saini.”

Prasad also confirmed that there will be reserve bowlers who will travel with the team to England as net bowlers. The names will be announced later.

India’s World Cup squad:

Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami.

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