Bengaluru: In Delhi Capitals’ opening IPL encounter this season, Rishabh Pant blasted 78 off 27 balls against a bowling attack that included Jasprit Bumrah. It was a faster rate of scoring than even that of the giant Andre Russell the previous day for Kolkata Knight Riders—a knock that had everyone agog.
It’s hard to imagine anyone in world cricket other than the West Indians who could have demolished a bowling attack like Pant did that evening, picking sixes off even Bumrah.
Sure, Pant has been under the cosh for wasting opportunities, throwing his wicket away, not staying till the end and so on. But it’s a team game and there are many others who can play an anchor. Pant is a game changer and it’s great to have that X factor going into a World Cup, even if it comes off only once in four matches.
That’s the one huge factor the selectors missed, while getting most things right for India’s World Cup 2019 team. They went for the “safer" option of Dinesh Karthik, who will presumably play only if M.S. Dhoni gets injured. Karthik’s wicket-keeping isn’t anything to write home about; in fact, Pant is more acrobatic in taking catches. Karthik has played cameos as a finisher, but he isn’t going to make the opposition burn the midnight lamp to plot his dismissal.
To the selectors’ credit, they resisted the temptation to include a fourth specialist seamer just to fill the numbers. None of the seamers other than the three selected has inspired confidence in repeated trials. So it’s good that the plan is to use Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar as backups to the main seamers. We just have to cross our fingers that at least two of the main seamers remain fit throughout the tournament.
If the English summer turns out as hot as it was last year, India will have the unique advantage of playing twin leg-spinners, and even throwing in a third spinner in Ravindra Jadeja on a turner in the second half of the World Cup when the pitches may be drier.
K.L. Rahul has had a terrible time on international tours over the past year, but it was a brave call to include him. One-day pitches tend to be batting-friendly even in England, where 300-plus scores are being routinely posted. Rahul has the strokes to cash in big time when presented with a flat track. So he’s a potential match-winner.
The inclusion of Kedar Jadhav gives India a street-smart cricketer, who combines well with Dhoni in the middle order. He’s particularly good against spin, so he’ll be a good one to outfox the mystery spinner that every top contender will throw in. His submarine off-spin may come in handy, too, on dry wickets.
Sumit Chakraberty is an author based in Bengaluru.