On Monday, 15th April, the national senior selection committee picked India’s squad for the ICC World Cup. As is the case with any team announcement, it was a mix of ecstasy and despair depending on who you were rooting for to make the cut.

One of the most debatable and news-worthy was the selection of Dinesh Karthik over Rishabh Pant. Both Karthik and Pant have been in the reckoning for a while but Pant’s exclusion from the side raised a few eyebrows. However, given the recent form and team’s dynamic Karthik always had an edge over Pant’s candidature.

Both DK and Pant have contrasting features in their games. While Karthik’s recently developed a lucid flow to his finishing prowess – we’d do well to remember the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh in 2018 – Pant’s game draws its principles from a wild concept – see the ball, hit the ball.

When a team for a marquee event is decided, it’s not decided keeping the future is mind. That proposition is best left for the tournaments and fixtures leading up to the World Cup. It’s this virtue of the World Cup selection that often renders the youth weak in comparison to experience. The exuberance of youth is appealing, more so in a world that salivates looking at sixes, but World Cup is a different ball game. It exposes one to unprecedented pressure. And when pressure knocks, inexperience becomes its first casualty.

Unfortunately for Pant, he is just 5 ODIs old (has played 9 Tests and 15 T20Is too). A team that’s one of the favourites to win the tournament cannot afford to have a player with less experience as a back-up to the best wicket-keeper batsman India have ever produced. The selection committee categorically stated that Dinesh Karthik is the back-up wicket-keeper for the event.

“If it is a crucial match, like a quarterfinal, semi-final, wicket-keeping also matters. That’s the reason why we went ahead with Karthik, otherwise Pant was almost there. Under pressure, we have seen Karthik finishing matches. That scored for him,” said MSK Prasad, chairman of the selection committee.

But it’s not just about playing the second wicket-keeper. It’s also about ironing out the sudden wrinkles in the batting order that might arise owing to bad forms or injuries to others. Could Pant be promoted to number 4 in case Vijay Shankar fails to find the rhythm that is needed at that stage?

The answer is simple – NO.

Pant is a prolific cricketer, a fast-learner, hits one-handed sixes, does back flips, and is a darling of the game that’s often gives an impression that it’s played just for TV. But is he as multidimensional as DK?

No!

Is strike rate the only criterion to make it to the team? Pakistan kept doing that with a veteran cricketer. But in Shahid Afridi’s case, he had a street smart bowling to compensate for brainless heaves that only resulted in collective gasp of his team and fans. Unfortunately for Pant, his wicket-keeping too is a work in progress. Getting swayed away by the social media frenzy over his six-hitting craft is not the best way of analysing his exclusion from the team.

The ability to hit clear the ground is often natural but cricketers in the past have managed to develop it. Karthik qualifies in the latter category unlike Pant. However, what should matter is that he does qualify. He can play the anchor, has a mature head and is at that stage in career where you don’t need hindsight to contemplate what could have been done. Pant will get his chances to feature in future World Cups, if he keeps himself injury free. But given the requirements of the current team, he just does not fit in the equation no matter which way you look at it – and yes, that includes a 3D glass too!

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