After leading his team, Delhi Capitals, to an incredible win over Rajasthan Royals with a splendid knock of 78 in just 36 balls, there is endless commentary about the huge mistake selectors have made in not picking him for the World Cup squad. Even head coach of DC, Ricky Ponting has stated that India have made a huge mistake by not picking the Delhi wicketkeeper.
But before judgement is passed on the wisdom of selectors, an honest and sober appraisal of the selectors' decision has to be made. Did they really err in picking Dinesh Karthik over Pant? Did yesterday's knock tell us anything we didn't know about the left-hander and his ability in 50-over cricket?
What selectors already knew?
The fact remains that Pant's brilliance in T20 cricket is not a new discovery. Close to two years ago, on May 4, 2017, the then Delhi Daredevils faced now-defunct Gujarat Lions in an IPL game at Feroz Shah Kotla. The home side were given a target of 209 to chase. Daredevils needed only 17.3. Guess who starred in the chase – our very own Rishabh Pant. His 97 off just 43 balls was probably even more exhilarating than the knock against RR.
So, we all know the great ability he possesses and so did the selectors while picking the World Cup team. But they also knew how capable Dinesh Karthik is. In this fanfare for Pant, it's easy to forget what the Tamil Nadu keeper-batsman has done.
It was only last year that India were playing a T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka and, in the final, needed 34 runs of last two overs. Karthik scored 22 off the penultimate over to bring India back into the game. Still, his team needed five to win off the last ball of the match. He responded by hitting the final delivery of the tournament over extra cover for six.
So, Karthik is no slouch either. His credentials are rock-solid as well. But there is something else that gives the right-hander an edge over his junior rival. While Pant has great stroke-making ability and has played some exciting knocks, his performance in the ODI series against Australia – when he was up against a quality attack – wasn't very impressive. Furthermore, the 21-year old is yet to play a really impressive innings in tough conditions, against the odds.
Where Karthik is better than Pant?
Karthik, on the other hand, has even opened for India in Tests – that too in England. His 77 at the top of the order at Nottingham in the second Test of 2007 series, against Anderson and co. played a key role in shaping India's victory in the Test and eventually the series – their last in that country.
Now, with the weather in England being unpredictable, it can easily transpire that clouds arrive for an India match. If that happens, whom will you trust to play out a tough session of testing bowling from world's best bowlers in overcast conditions – Pant or Karthik? Most will opt for the latter.
And there is no doubt that the standard of bowling in the World Cup is likely to be much higher than in IPL. In ODIs, bowlers have 10 overs, not four and scoring is a bit tougher. So, when one looks at Karthik's experience, his achievements, his ability, and doesn't get carried away by the heat of the moment following Pant's exploits in one match, he would reach the conclusion that the Indian selectors have made the right call for the World Cup squad.