CHENNAI: On February 15, Dinesh Karthik kept dialling the numbers of India’s support staff and selectors, looking for an answer as to why he didn’t find a place for the ODI series against Australia at home. That leg was supposed to be a World Cup dress rehearsal for India. One after the other, nobody had an answer that convinced Karthik.
On April 15, Karthik called them again. This time, he thanked a few. Just 60 days after finding himself almost out of India’s plans for England, he was picked by the selection committee over Rishabh Pant, a player the management was keen to have on board. But, chief MSK Prasad and four other selectors (Sarandeep Singh, Gagan Khoda, Devang Gandhi and Jatin Paranjape) chose to invest their faith on the experienced Karthik, who has shown great composure and maturity as a reliable finisher, a job only MS Dhoni has mastered in this side.
“Under pressure, we have seen Dinesh Karthik finishing matches. That’s one reason that scored for him,” they said.So what exactly titled the decision in Karthik’s favour?
“We debated at length, and all of us felt that either Pant or DK will be in playing 11 if (only) Mahi is injured,” explained Prasad. “At that juncture, if it is a crucial match, wicketkeeping also matters. That’s why we went ahead with Karthik. Otherwise, Pant was almost there.”
Regarding the No 4 slot, Prasad revealed that Vijay Shankar has been identified as the one. This means India will go in with two pacers and spinners each, with Vijay, Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav being the all-rounders. That’s why Ambati Rayudu failed to get a look-in.
“After 2017 Champions Trophy, we have tried quite a few middle-order batsmen, including Karthik. We also tried Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey. We did give a few more chances to Rayudu, but what Vijay offers is three-dimensional,” remarked Prasad.
“Apart from batting, he can bowl. If conditions are suitable — overcast, which we might encounter in England — he might bowl a bit. He’s also a fantastic fielder.”
Despite Prasad mentioning Vijay’s name, India are keeping their options open for No 4. “With Karthik in and also Jadhav, we have plenty of candidates.” That the chief selector also mentioned KL Rahul as a middle-order bat means that India will go to England without a designated two-drop.
While the rest of the squad have picked themselves, there seems to have been some last-minute pondering over Ravindra Jadeja’s spot. But, considering the fact that if India start with Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, their tail may be among the weakest at this World Cup.
It is something that the Men in Blue are keen on avoiding, considering that their middle-order is also not the strongest.