ICC World Cup 2019: Why the selectors were right to leave out Rishabh Pant
After a year-long debate over the second wicket-keeper spot, India's current Test stumper Rishabh Pant has been left out of the squad for the World Cup 2019 to be held in England. Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Dinesh Karthik has been picked for the role instead.
Rishabh Pant - An exciting kid on the block
Pant has been making headlines ever since he was made the vice-captain of the Indian team for the U19 World Cup in 2016. He was relentless at the top of the order, scoring 267 runs in six matches. His big hitting ability was especially evident in his 24-ball 78 against Nepal U-19.
On the other hand, Karthik has slowly been establishing himself as a finisher. His pyrotechnics against Bangladesh in the final of the Nidahas trophy and his consistent run for KKR in 2018 put back him in the radar for the World Cup.
The Pant vs Karthik debate
With the World Cup set to take place in England & Wales, the selectors were in search of a second wicket-keeper to act as backup for MS Dhoni, with Pant and Karthik being the front-runners for the role.
Pant is seen as a dangerous batsman as he has the ability to change the course of a match in a matter of a few balls. He announced himself on the big stage in 2017 as he set the IPL on fire; his 43-ball 97 against Gujarat Lions helped his team chase down a target of 209 with 15 balls to spare.
After taking over the reins of the Delhi team in the domestic arena, he was fast-tracked to the national team.
An injury to Wriddhiman Saha meant that the youngster was handed his Test debut at Nottingham. His centuries in England and Australia raised many voices for his inclusion in the World Cup squad.
He went to another level last year, as he won the ICC Emerging player award and IPL's Emerging Player award for the 2018 season. He scored 684 runs in 14 matches at a strike-rate of 173 in IPL 2018. With most of his runs coming in at No: 4, he was seen as a potential candidate for the slot.
However, Pant had a torrid time behind the stumps in England last year as India became only the second team in 84 years to concede more than 100 byes in a Test series. He was also criticized for his wicket-keeping after he dropped few chances in the 3-2 series loss against Australia in March.
The selectors, therefore, chose to give the edge to the experience that Karthik possesses - not only with his 15-year-long career but also from his work in his previous England tours.
The MSK Prasad-led committee have more faith in Karthik to take care of the glove work if Dhoni gets injured during the World Cup. There have been calls to include Pant purely as a batsman as he scored tons of runs in the middle order, but his temperament has been questioned as he tends to play one shot too many.
Even in the current IPL season, he has repeatedly thrown away his wicket which has resulted in the capitulation of his side. The selectors would have felt that Karthik has the edge in this aspect and will be better equipped to play in pressure situations. Apart from being a finisher in the team, the 33-year old could also step in to play at No: 4.
Although Pant could have still found a place in the squad as a batsman, the 15-member squad limit has acted against him. With Hardik Pandya already in the playing XI, it would be risky to play two players who wield the long handle more often than not.
Keeping all these things in mind, Karthik is a safer bet than Pant both in terms of wicket-keeping and batting.