Cricket World Cup 2019: One thing Dinesh Karthik's experience certificate doesn't show
India's squad for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup was announced today. The big news of the day were two surprise omissions - those of Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu. More so because they both regularly featured in India's limited-overs squad this season. Ambati Rayudu was backed as India's number four mainstay by Virat Kohli in October, and Pant featured in as many as 25 internationals since August.
But more than anything, Rishabh Pant's omission will be the talk of the town for quite a few days from now. Rishabh has certainly announced his arrival, ending as India's second highest run-scorer in India's maiden Test series victory in Australia. He walks into any T20 squad as a batsman alone as well, but one day cricket is a nut Pant hasn't been able to crack open yet.
Dinesh Karthik's inclusion as India's back up wicket keeping option for MS Dhoni comes as a surprise for many (and despise for some), but if you compare the two - Karthik had a stronger case. Having served the Indian team in various capacities, Karthik's biggest advantage is having successfully opened the batting for India during a rare Test series victory in England in 2007. The wicket-keeper batsman who made his ODI debut at Lord's in September 2004, has been a part of the limited overs setup since last year's Nidahas Trophy.
Having won the T20 final from an improbable situation, Karthik has since finished many T20's and a few ODI's for India. His forte is consistency and a cool temperament, which gives him an edge over Rishabh Pant. Karthik has also exhibited good fielding skills with the gloves (remember his stumping of Michael Vaughan on his 2004 debut) and without them (remember his catch of Graeme Smith in the 2007 World T20).
Karthik is a sort of a utility player who can bat at virtually any number, field at any position and play any format. But as far as experience is concerned, DK's overall match experience is about as good as many players playing their first World Cup. Although he has featured in 91 ODI's, and has been part of India's winning squads from the 2007 World T20 and 2013 Champions Trophy, he has never faced 100 balls in an ODI innings.
DK, who will be featuring in India's 50-over World Cup squad for the second time after 2007, has faced a maximum of 92 balls in any individual ODI innings. That was during his match-winning unbeaten knock of 64 against New Zealand in October 2017. He has decent numbers to show alright, but he doesn't really have an innings of substance at the ODI level to account for.
Even in Tests, there are only eight innings in which he has faced over 100 balls. His highest ODI score is 79, and he has got a fair number of innings at every batting position. In fact, he has batted in the top four 45 times, including opening the batting 20 times. Having not scored a single century despite so many opportunities worries me a bit.
But looking at the brighter side, things can certainly turn around. Remember, how Anil Kumble scored his maiden Test century and captained India for the first time - all after playing 17 years of international cricket? Nasser Hussain scored his only ODI century after 12 years of international experience during the 2002 Natwest Final at Lord's. And even the great Clive Lloyd scored his only ODI century during the historic inaugural World Cup final on the same ground in 1975.
DK has many innings of substance to account for at the domestic level. He also has runs on international tours with 'A' sides, all against international-level bowling attacks. He has been captaining his IPL franchise for two years as well, and if the Nidahas Final was anything to go by, has a cool head on his shoulders - one that can give MS Dhoni a run for his money.