“Now it is up to the selectors and the think-tank to take the final call. Will they go with a proven performer like Karthik or back the so-called potential of Pant”?

4, 40*, 28, 3, 1, 36 and 16.

These are Rishabh Pant’s contributions with the bat since coming back in India’s white ball team in the T20I series in New Zealand. Prior to that, he was overlooked for the 50-over matches during India’s trans-Tasmanian tour and Dinesh Karthik was preferred in his place.

However, all of a sudden, the equations changed drastically following the Hamilton T20I, which Karthik narrowly failed to finish; one of his rare failures. Meanwhile, following that game, the selectors along with the team think-tank decided to give Pant another go in the ODIs during the home series against Australia – a decision which seemed a little bit harsh on Karthik, who averages 47.22 since his comeback game in India’s ODI colours during the 2017 tour of West Indies.

Nevertheless, for Pant, the series against the Aussies was a perfect opportunity to seal his place as a second wicket-keeper in India’s World Cup squad. But, the youngster has messed it up completely, both behind and in front of the wicket. In Dhoni’s absence, he featured in the XI as the first-choice keeper-batsman in the Mohali and Delhi, but he has done hardly anything to justify his selection.

Also read: Usman Khawaja: From Australia’s premier Test batsman to Australia’s premier ODI batsman

At Mohali, batting at No.5 the left-hander scored a quickfire 24-ball 36. However, with the keeping gloves, he was pathetic, fumbling here and there and missing out a crucial stumping opportunity of Ashton Turner, which cost India the game and the series.

In Delhi, during the series decider, his keeping saw some improvement. However, with bat, when his team needed him to stay out there play a responsible knock during that run-chase, Pant disappointed once again.

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Now, his continues failure is bound to give the team management some headache. With no more international fixture left for India before the start of their World Cup campaign, can they continue to back a reckless Pant? Or should they go for an experienced campaigner like Karthik, who, according to the stats, has been India’s most trusted middle-order batsman (or we can say finisher) in past 18-20 months!

Numbers backing Karthik

In the past couple of years in ODIs, Karthik has been unbeaten in seven out of ten games India have won while chasing. Only Joe Root (9), Virat Kohli (8) and Dhoni (8) have been better on this parameter during that same period.

Even in the T20Is (which the Indian team management also considers as a criteria for World Cup selection) in the past two years, Karthik has been on top in terms of chalking up most unbeaten innings in a successful chase. In the seven innings he has batted when India have won chasing, the Chennai boy has remained not-out at the crease and every single time, making 141 runs at a strike rate of 142.42.

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Unlike Pant, Karthik is not exactly a power-hitter. He is more of a touch player. However, when required he well capable of using the long handle right from the word go. We have seen this in the recent past on numerous occasions, most famously in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh last year.

In fact, under pressure, Karthik seems to flourish. In contrast, so far in his short international career, Pant hasn’t been successful in this aspect. Even as a keeper, Karthik is far more reliable than him. And the experience of playing ample amount of red and white ball cricket on English conditions also strengthens his claim for a spot as Dhoni’s deputy in India’s World Cup squad.

Now it is up to the selectors and the think-tank to take the final call. Will they go with a proven performer like Karthik or back the so-called potential of Pant?

Well, time will have the answer.

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