Team India for World Cup locked, the number 4 question persists

There have been few gambles the selection committee took in naming India's World Cup squad, but how well will they pay off remains to be seen.

Vijay Shankar pipped Ambati Rayudu in the race for the No. 4 slot.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina were inconsistent. Yuvraj Singh’s international career was all but over. Naturally, one of the first questions that cropped up after India’s semifinal exit at the last World Cup against Australia in Sydney was: “Who will be India’s No. 4 at the 2019 World Cup?”

A couple of hours after BCCI acting secretary announced the squad and chief selector M.S.K. Prasad tried to reason some of the contentious calls, it looks like the question still remains unanswered.

Almost a dozen batsmen have been tried out at the critical spot in India’s batting order in the last four years. Ever since he recovered from a knee injury, Ambati Rayudu had emerged as the front-runner for the spot. Then Vijay Shankar began his rise on the biggest stage a couple of months ago.

READ: Team India for World Cup 2019: Karthik, Jadeja, Shankar in squad, Pant misses out

The Tamil Nadu all-rounder - a useful batsman and an under-rated yet useful pacer - pipped Rayudu in the race for the No. 4 slot. However, Prasad wasn’t sure if Vijay was the No. 1 choice for the job. Prasad did refer to Vijay as No. 4 option but in the same breath mentioned Kedar Jadhav as an option.

Later in the interaction, Prasad also mentioned the selectors saw K.L. Rahul playing a role in the World Cup and also emphasised Dinesh Karthik’s batting prowess as a reserve wicket-keeper.

Add to that India head coach Ravi Shastri having hinted at using Virat Kohli at No. 4 at some point during the World Cup in an interview, one is convinced that the selectors and the team management are still far from having firmed up their No. 4.

Perhaps we will have to wait till June 5, when India opens its campaign against South Africa in Southampton.

The other big talking point of the day was Karthik being preferred over Rishabh Pant as the reserve wicket-keeper.

READ: World Cup 2019: I can be in the playing XI as a specialist batsman, says Dinesh Karthik

According to Prasad, Karthik is a better wicket-keeper than Pant. One cannot agree more with the chief selector, himself a glovesman. But if that’s the case, why hasn’t the veteran been persisted over the rookie in Test cricket?

Karthik may have been surprised to be assured of a ticket for the World Cup after a long gap of 12 years. But he cannot be blamed for it. After all, Pant hasn’t utilised umpteen opportunities presented to him during the build-up.

While it appears to be a somewhat confusing selection, one cannot really blame the selectors for it. After all, when the cupboard is empty, the selectors also have their hands tied.

Team India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja.