Dinesh Karthik pipped young Rishabh Pant to the second wicketkeeper’s spot in India’s World Cup squad on Monday and all-rounder Vijay Shankar also made the cut.
There was not much suspense hanging over chief selector M.S.K Prasad’s news conference to announce a 15-member squad led by Virat Kohli as most of the players picked themselves.
With Mahendra Singh Dhoni the undisputed first-choice wicketkeeper, the selectors preferred Karthik’s experience to the raw aggression of the 21-year-old Pant.
“We felt Rishabh Pant or DK will come into the playing XI only if Mahi (Dhoni) is injured,” Prasad told reporters, saying Karthik’s superior keeping and reputation as a “finisher” clinched it for the 33-year-old.
“In crunch matches, who can be the best guy who can handle the pressure? For that reason, the decision went in favour of Dinesh Karthik. Otherwise, Pant is full of talent, there’ll be time for him. It’s unfortunate for him that he missed out.”
India boast a formidable top order including captain Kohli but the team have been searching for a reliable number four batsman and Shankar beat Ambati Rayudu to the spot.
“What Vijay Shankar offers is three-dimensional,” Prasad said.
“Apart from his batting, he can bowl and he’s a fantastic fielder…We are looking at him as number four. We have Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav also, so we have plenty of options at number four right now.”
Lokesh Rahul made the squad as a back-up opener, but could also bat lower down the order, Prasad said.
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will share India’s slow bowling duties but the prospect of a hot English summer also prompted the selection of spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.
“In the last one-and-half years, it’s the two wrist-spinners who have won us games,” Prasad said of Yadav and Chahal.
“In the second part of the tournament, wickets might be a bit more drier. That’s where we feel Jadeja will come in handy.”
Hardik Pandya remains India’s first-choice all-rounder. The showpiece event in England and Wales starts on May 30. India begins their bid for a third World Cup title against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.
Teams have to submit their 15-man squads by April 23 but injury replacements can be named until May 23.
“We all debated and felt that this is the best possible team that can give us the best possible result. So there is no point in changing it, unless someone is injured,” Prasad added.