CHENNAI: It’s a good and a bad time to be a selector for the Indian team.Good because everyone they’ve zeroed in on as a probable for the World Cup has delivered in one way or the other. Bad? Because, well, the same.
You don’t really need to dig deep into statistics to say that Rishabh Pant is one of those players. A big ICC accolade, one that was catalysed by his stellar run Down Under last year. A burgeoning white-ball CV, one stuffed with IPL heroics. With chief selector MSK Prasad also deeming Pant’s contention for the big-ticket event as a “healthy headache” on Monday, it wasn’t surprising to see former India stumper Vijay Dahiya also bat for his inclusion.
“It’s too early to say anything, considering that the squad for Australia (the five-ODI series in India next month) hasn’t been announced. But personally, I’d say that he should make it into the World Cup squad, and even the playing XI.”
The spot Pant is vying for — the middle-order — falls under the category of “you really can’t determine how it’s going to shape up before the final team is announced”. But then again, there are quite a few attributes that make a case for his inclusion.
The first and foremost among them is that the venues in England have been witness to quite a few run-fests over the past two years. If Pant does slot into the XI, it’ll be as a specialist batsman. And as a player who can go from “0-100kmph” even before bowlers bat their eyelids, especially during the death overs, Pant’s presence will be the perfect foil for other middle-order consolidators like Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni. Dahiya acknowledges the potential that Pant has in terms of unleashing mayhem.
“There’s no doubt about the fact that Pant is an impact player. He’s shown time and again that he’s capable of accelerating at will. He’s done that at various levels, be it domestic or international. Not to mention the fact that he’s had a good run in the New Zealand T20Is. He’s sure to figure in the Australia T20Is, and it won’t be surprising to see him notch up more runs there.”
Detractors may perhaps make use of the argument that for a player who’s seen as a perfect fit for shorter formats, Pant hasn’t been given the same amount of rope in ODIs as he has been given in Tests. After having a field day against Australia with the red-ball last year, the Haridwar native had to go and play a few matches for India A back home, even as the Men in Blue were finishing out their 50-over commitments Down Under and then in New Zealand.
But Dahiya felt that the same notion is what makes the case for Pant’s inclusion for the World Cup a lot more stronger. “If you look at it from the other side, that exact run in Australia, and even England, with the red ball is what has instilled confidence in everyone to say that Pant could be included for the World Cup. Not to mention the selectors. Like it’s rightly been pointed out, they are currently facing a ‘happy headache’, But it’ll be interesting to see how they accommodate Pant for England.”
Like Dahiya observes, the selectors are in for at least one tough call; one that has been made more difficult by the 21-year-old being singled out by cricket’s top body as the Emerging Player of 2018.