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Former stars divided on India’s World Cup selection

Ajeyo Basu

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The selection of the Indian squad for the ICC World Cup has attracted both praise and brickbats from present and former players

New Delhi:  India’s World Cup selection has thrown up a heated debate with several former stars coming up with contrasting opinions on the various permutations and combinations within the squad that may make or mar the chances of the potential title contenders.

The question over the correct choice for the fourth spot in the Indian batting order has been among the most debated issues for several months before the selectors announced their decision on Monday.

They placed their trust in rookie batsman Vijay Shankar at the cost of the more experienced Ambati Rayudu, who has struggled against Australia at home.

Legendary spinner Erapalli Prasanna has lashed out at India’s World Cup selection, asserting that Rayudu should have been placed in the contentious number four slot while also backing Rishabh Pant as the ideal wicket-keeping choice.

Legendary off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna is unhappy with the Indian squad for the ICC ODI World Cup in England.

Shankar, who made his international debut against Australia in January, has had a few good knocks during the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). But Prasanna felt that his lack of experience will hurt him in unfamiliar English conditions during the World Cup.

“Rayudu should have been there in the place of Vijay Shankar. He is a more experienced batsman and has the technique and temperament to do well in England,” Prasanna told Sports Lounge.

The question over the back-up wicket-keeper’s spot has also been a much discussed one with a section of critics unhappy with Rishabh Pant’s wicket-keeping skills and his batting temperament.

The selection committee decided to drop the Delhi player with the more experienced Dinesh Karthik getting the nod.

Prasanna however, felt that Pant’s experience and track record in England should have landed him a ticket to the World Cup.

“Dropping Pant is not a healthy sign because he has a good batting record in England. He is a very good player. Panth has got enough experience and he has the experience of scoring runs in England. But having Pant also would not have solved the problem in the middle-order,” the former India star said.

“Dinesh Karthik is a good player and also has a lot of experience. But I would have preferred Rishabh Pant in his place,” he added.

“Has he not got his hundreds? Specially in England? That itself answers all the questions. His wicket-keeping skills are fantastic. He is among the best. He should have been in the squad.”

Vijay Shakar has got the selectors’ nod for the crucial fourth spot in the Indian batting order.

Former India pacer Irfan Pathan however, begged to disagree, asserting that the selectors have hit the nail on the head.

“There is quality in the team and all the players who have been selected seem to be in good form.  The players I had on my mind, batsmen or bowler have made it to the 15. Also, if you look at the spin bowlers it has the best with top-quality capability one can ask to be part of the World Cup squad,” he said.

“All our bowlers have proved that they have the ability of taking wicket in the beginning and death over. Same goes for our batsmen who are in great form to put big score on the board. All these points put together makes India favourite to win or play the finals.”

The former star pacer also opined that Karthik is a better option as a wicket-keeper than Pant.

“It’s clearly spoken about that if Mahendra Singh Dhoni gets injured then who can handle the pressure, the name that comes is Dinesh Karthik. DK will be in reserve and Vijay Shankar in the fourth spot. Before IPL, India has played many series, and whenever he has been part of the squad he has performed well, and this was noticed by the selectors,” Pathan said.

“There was a point when Rayudu had a spot for himself. When he scored 90 against New Zealand, after which he derailed. If Rayudu would have continued to perform, we wouldn’t have seen DK. When we talk about Rishabh Pant, it’s about him being a young player, and that he is perfect for sixth or seventh spot. But when we talk about World Cup. Dinesh Kartik has experience, and that’s why the selectors have chosen him,” he added.

Pathan also asserted the form of lead pacer Jasprit Bumrah will be crucial to India’s chances.

“He is going to be very crucial in the death over because in England they have two balls. In 50 overs there is a new ball from both the ends. There is not a lot of reverse that you get to see. So, when it doesn’t reverse its important to bowl good yorkers. Bumrah has the quality, action and pace. The way he takes a wicket in the end will be very crucial,” Pathan said.

“More than a new ball I would give more importance to him. He is our trump card. His world cup and Virat Kohli’s world needs to go well because our success depends on that.”

Former England star Kevin Pietersen meanwhile, struck a discordant note,  opining that the Indian selectors should have been more judicious in picking the bowling combination.

Dinesh Karthik’s surprise call up to the Indian World Cup squad will see him travel to the quadrennial event after a 12-year gap

“It’s a concern because India may have missed the trick. You have to think about all the permutations. They might become complications because of a lack of form or bowlers producing what he wants to produce. It even something similar to what happened in 2005, where the bowler goes over his ankles on the morning of the game, these things can happen. People playing the World Cup in England do not know what the weather conditions are like,” he said.

The former England captain felt that the Indian bowlers may find life difficult in English conditions, but was quick to point out that a warm summer in his native land may give an advantage to teams from the subcontinent.

“The conditions are completely weather dependent again. It’s freezing at the moment in England and it’s not somewhere you would want to be. You’re unsure of the weather which is going to determine the World Cup. Last summer was England’s hottest in 37 years. If that happens this summer as well then it brings the subcontinental teams a lot closer to the action,” Pietersen remarked.

“If it is absolutely freezing cold, I have played in England during May in snow, so if that
happens then England are front runners.”

Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif took to social media to praise fast bowler Mohammed Shami and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja for the way they have toiled over the last few months which have earned them tickets to the game’s showpiece tournament.

“Six months back, Mohammad Shami was nowhere near being considered for white ball cricket, but some outstanding performances have ensured his selection for his 2nd World Cup. He & Jadeja have fought their way back in,” Kaif wrote on Twitter.

“There will be few disappointed players but best wishes to Team India.”