Former Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal said Indian selectors should have picked hard-hitting Rishabh Pant purely as a batsman for the 2019 World Cup.
The non-selection of Pant created a furore in India as he can not only hit the long ball but also offers variety as a left-handed batsman. However, Indian selectors went with the experienced Dinesh Karthik as back-up wicketkeeper for veteran MS Dhoni while picking Vijay Shankar as the No4 batsman.
Ajmal said Pant has brought about a new energy in the Indian team and should have been picked for the 50-over tournament.
“India have a strong bench. Pant is a very good batsman. He has been batting very well in the IPL,” Ajmal told Sport360.
“He has brought new life in the Indian team. Pant should have been picked as a batsman. But the selectors must have spotted some weakness,” the off-spinner said at King’s School Al Barsha in Dubai on Friday where his Saeed Ajmal International Cricket Academy played the Kings’ Cricket Academy.
Ajmal, who picked hosts England and New Zealand as two dangerous teams at the World Cup, said Pakistan need to put in extra effort to defeat India in the much-awaited June 16 World Cup clash. The men in green have never defeated India in six World Cup games.
“I will never talk about the past, always look at the future. Ok, Pakistan haven’t beaten India before. They will need to put in extra effort as India are a very good team. Good luck to both teams,” he added.
India coach Ravi Shastri revealed the team wanted to have a 16-member squad for the 2019 World Cup given the length of the tournament but had to make do with 15. That extra position ultimately resulted in contentious omissions of Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant.
Two days after India announced their 15-member squad for the World Cup, led by Virat Kohli, coach Shastri was in Dubai on Wednesday as Corporate Ambassador of Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone. While Shastri refused to make any comments about the merits of selection or the reasons behind the omissions of Pant and Rayudu from the final squad, he did say having 16 players would have been better.
“I don’t get involved in selection. If we have any opinion, we let the captain known,” Shastri said on Wednesday.
“When you only have 15 to pick, there is bound to be someone or the other who misses out, which is very unfortunate. I would have preferred 16 players. We had mentioned to the ICC that in a tournament that long, 16 players makes sense. But the diktat was 15.
“They (who missed out) shouldn’t lose heart. It’s a funny game. There could be injuries. So you never know when you could be called up.”
Shastri said England start as favourites as they are not only the No1 team but have fine all-round players while also enjoying the advantage of hosting the tournament.
“England have been the most consistent team over the last two years. They have multi-dimensional players. They have depth in bowling and batting. And they are playing at home. So they would start as favourites,” Shastri added.
“But there are so many teams that can beat any team on a given day. In a tournament like the World Cup, you have got to be on top of your game every game.”
Vijay Shankar was selected ahead of Rayudu as the main No4 batsman but coach Shastri said the team management will remain flexible on the batting order after openers Rohit Sharma Shikhar Dhawan and No3 Kohli.
“Total flexibility (on No4 position) depending on conditions, opposition. I would say the top three… but after that you can be very flexible,” he said.
There is a train of thought that India rely too heavily on Kohli to do the heavy lifting. But Shastri said India have been among the top two or three teams in all formats for the last five years and that can only be achieved through team work.
“If you look at the last five years, the way the Indian team has performed, they have always been in the top two or three. To be in top two or three for five years in a row, No1 in Tests, again top three in T20 cricket… you can’t depend on one player. You have that kind of consistent record, you need a bunch of players performing all the time. Due credit to the team.”
India went in for experience while naming their 15-member squad for the 2019 World Cup, with dashing wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant the most notable omission.
Dinesh Karthik was picked as the reserve wicketkeeper behind MS Dhoni, with chief selector MSK Prasad stating that Karthik is the better keeper and has finished games in the past in white-ball cricket.
“Definitely it’s a case where we debated at length. We went ahead with Karthik because of his experience in big matches,” Prasad was quoted as saying by AFP.
“We have seen Karthik finishing matches under pressure. Pant is full of talent, there’s a lot of time for him and it’s just unfortunate that he has missed out.
“In an important game, wicketkeeping is also important. Karthik will only play in case of an injury to Dhoni,” Prasad said.
All-rounder Vijay Shankar seems to have earned the team management’s nod for the contentious number four position with hopefuls Pant and Ambati Rayudu both not in the squad. The 28-year-old has shown excellent technique and temperament to bat in that spot, plus he offers a few overs of decent seam-up if the conditions are helpful.
“Apart from his batting, Shankar can bowl if the conditions are suitable. If the conditions are overcast, which we might encounter in England, he might bowl a bit and he’s a fantastic fielder,” Prasad added.
The rest of the team picks itself with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan the openers and KL Rahul the back-up option. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are the spinners with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav the spinners.
Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are all-round picks.
India squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami