When Rohit Sharma, responding to a question about Rishabh Pant being promoted to no. 4 in the batting line-up, humourously said that he wasn't surprised because "you all (mediapersons) wanted him in the team," he was pointing to the huge clamour in the media and among some of the experts for getting the young wicketkeeper into the World Cup squad. The way he batted against England wasn't that convincing a proof of his abilities.
The one man who seems to have been completely overlooked due to the chorus of voices wanting Pant in the playing XI is Dinesh Karthik. The veteran Tamil Nadu player is being regarded merely as a back-up keeper for MS Dhoni and even that position, he seems to have yielded to his junior from Delhi.
But Karthik is a far better batsman that he is being regarded as currently. In fact, it can be argued that Karthik deserves to be in the playing XI much more than Rishabh Pant.
For all the fanfare around the 21-year old Delhi Capitals player, there is yet to be a decent performance from him in the ODI format. In the home series against Australia earlier this year, he failed to make an impact. Even in his knock against England, the left-hander seemed vulnerable and failed to get going. His tendency to put his front foot across is something that can get him into trouble against bowlers able to swing the ball back in.
Karthik, on the other hand, is a technically sound batsman who has even opened the innings for India in Test matches in England. He has 9 half-centuries and has played some important knocks in his ODI career, which began in 2004. The reason he would be a very valuable player for India is the fact that in the ongoing tournament, the most successful teams – Australia, New Zealand, England and Pakistan – apart from India have batsmen in their middle order who are technically sound and can play a more steady innings instead of being aggressive from ball one. Be it Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Joe Root or Babar Azam, the importance of a solid batsmen who can absorb pressure has been for everyone to see. Karthik is the most likely to play that role.
There may even be a case for him to open the innings. KL Rahul has been rather average so far in this tournament. There is a view that Pant should replace him at the top but he may well struggle against the new ball and quality bowlers. Karthik, on the other hand, is more likely to deal with the opening burst at the start of an innings.
But the 34-year old isn't merely a plodder. He can clear the boundaries and is very skilled in playing spin. Overall, Karthik, with his class and ability and technique would add the solidity and fluency that India need and which is not being provided by either Pant or Rahul. The media also needs to stop being blind to Karthik's ability and only focussing on the supposed talent of Rishabh. Perhaps Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri would see things more clearly.