Mumbai: Young Rishabh Pant took a giant stride towards realising his World Cup dream, pipping veteran Dinesh Karthik in the 15-member ODI squad for the Australia series while KL Rahul all but clinched the reserve opener’s slot for the mega event by earning a recall.
While the selectors announced two different teams for the first two and last three ODIs, the side that is expected to travel to England will be the one for the last three games of the series. The engagement with Australia starts February 24 with the first T20 International in Visakhapatnam, while the World Cup is scheduled from May 30.
Rahul returned to the side after he was controversially called back midway through the tour of Australia following his and all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s loose talk on women in a TV show.
Regular captain Virat Kohli and pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah are also back in the squad for the entire Australia series after a break and even vice-captain Rohit Sharma will not be resting.
The committee headed by MSK Prasad also announced the T20 squad for the two-match series, in which rookie Punjab leg-spinner Mayank Markande made the cut and Kuldeep Yadav was rested.
“...as a back-up spinner we are looking at him (Markande). So we have been grooming him through the India A process and he has taken a five-wicket haul (against England Lions on Friday),” Prasad said after the selection meeting.
However, all eyes were on the ODI squad which is supposed to be a mirror image of the team that will be travelling to England.
One of the biggest calls was regarding the second wicketkeeper-cum-reserve batsman’s slot. Karthik seems to have missed the bus to a much younger Pant, who is considered to be the future of Indian cricket and heir apparent to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps.
Karthik was criticised for his on-field decision-making during the lost final T20 International against New Zealand in Hamilton. The Tamil Nadu veteran refused a single when Krunal Pandya was on a rampage at the other end.
Karthik later justified the call by saying that he was confident of pulling off a six which didn’t happen as India lost by four runs.
Pant, on the other hand, is yet to get a significant knock in ODIs but his big-hitting prowess have made him a potential match-winner in big-ticket events like the World Cup.
Karthik’s chances of making it to the World Cup are even more slim after Rahul made the cut on the back of his 89 and 81 for India A against England Lions.