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Posted at: Apr 15, 2019, 8:01 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2019, 8:01 AM (IST)WORLD CUP SQUAD

Judgement Day

Debate over 2nd ’keeper, No. 4 slot and 2nd allrounder
Judgement Day
The selectors might be tempted to use KL Rahul as the No. 4 batsman. One of Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant is likely to be picked up as India’s back-up wicketkeeper for the World Cup. FILE

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 14

When the chief selector, MSK Prasad, announces the Indian cricket team for the World Cup tomorrow, don’t expect any surprises: The selectors are extremely unlikely to spring up surprises for an important event such as the World Cup. The 15 men who will make the World Cup team will all be tried and tested players who have been in the mix for the last one year at least. The selectors, though, will be faced with some difficult questions, the most vexing of which would revolve around India’s middle-order and the need for a second specialist wicketkeeper.

Based on their performance, seniority and experience, eleven players are certain to be picked up — Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. 

That leaves four slots to be filled up, and the candidates for them are Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja.

Second ‘Keeper

One of Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant is likely to be picked up as India’s back-up wicketkeeper for the World Cup. Pant is a fearless hitter of the ball — but he seems too impetuous, prone to self-destruct with a rash stroke after a rush of blood. Plus his wicketkeeping is not quite up to the mark right now. Karthik, a better keeper, is more experienced as a batsman and this could help him get into the Indian 15. However, Pant has something magical about his batting when it comes off, the X-factor — that just might tilt the scale in his favour.

No. 4 Question

The Karthik-Pant question is also linked to the second contentious issue in the selection — who bats at No. 4? In the last two years, India have tried both Karthik and Pant at No. 4. Karthik has played four innings at No. 4, scoring 122 runs at 40.66; Pant has played only one innings at No. 4, scoring 16 runs in it.

The two were tried at that position because India have been struggling to fill the No. 4 slot. One man has played more times than Karthik at No. 4 in the last two years — Ambati Rayudu, with 14 innings and 464 runs at 42.18. Rahul has played two innings at No. 4 in this duration, scoring nine runs in two innings, remaining unbeaten once.

But Rayudu is no longer a certainty because of some modest performances and ordinary dismissals in Australia and New Zealand, and at home against Australia, all this year. The selectors, thus, might be tempted to use Rahul as the No. 4 batsman and back-up wicketkeeper, should Dhoni be forced to give up gloves due to an injury. 

Other slots

Vijay Shankar, who has played all his nine ODIs this year, has a chance to make the team as a pace bowling all-rounder. The problem is that while his batting has big-hitting promise, his bowling isn’t all that great — currently he averages 94.00 as a bowler! Thus Ravindra Jadeja’s experience as a spin-bowling allrounder could get him into the team ahead of Shankar. 

Possibility

Who out of Rayudu, Rahul, Karthik, Pant, Shankar and Jadeja will the selectors pick up? Considering various factors, the selectors could arrive at these four names: Pant due to X-factor, Rayudu due to no-alternative, Rahul as a back-up ‘keeper and No. 4, and Jadeja due to possibly dry pitches as all Indian games will be played in the English summer in June-July.


Who’ll be India’s No. 4 at World Cup?
The leading candidates, but Dhoni too could bat at that slot

Rayudu
464
Runs at No. 4 in 14 innings in the last two years, average 42.18. Though his prospects have fallen, he might still be India’s best bet at No. 4, especially as Indian openers have a great record in the UK

Rahul
26
Runs at No. 4 in 3 innings in the last two years, average 13.00. These are poor numbers, but he could still be in the squad as a back-up wicketkeeper and a possible No. 4, apart from being the third opener

Karthik
264
Runs at No. 4 in 9 innings in the last two years, average 52.80. However, only 3 of these 9 innings were played against top teams (NZ, Eng). He could make the squad as a back-up ‘keeper and specialist No. 4


Who will be backup ‘keeper?

Karthik

91 ODIs played, has made 1738 runs in them, at an average of 31.03

61,7 Has taken 61 catches and done 7 stumpings in ODI cricket 

111 Runs in IPL 2019, from 7 innings, average 18.50

Pant

5 ODIs played, has made 93 runs in them, at an average of 23.25

5,0 Has taken 5 catches in ODI cricket, yet to effect a stumping in ODIs

245 Runs in IPL 2019, from 8 innings, average 35.00

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