The selection meeting to choose the 15-member squad for the ICC World Cup 2019 may have been a welcome break for Virat Kohli as he was relieved, albeit temporarily, from the dismal campaign his Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore is having.
Four days hence, Kohli is set to face his World Cup squad compatriot Dinesh Karthik as RCB is set to face Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on April 19. This game may have a subplot to it if the rumour mills are to be believed and it relates to the captains of the respective teams and the recently picked World Cup squad.
In the 15-member playing contingent that was announced by BCCI's acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary on April 15, Karthik was preferred over Rishabh Pant as the reserve wicketkeeper and this was a point of contention. Most experts and critics had predicted that India would go for Pant instead of Karthik given the massive potential the 21-year-old possesses in single-handedly turning games around.
But in the end, Karthik was picked because he was unanimously deemed by the selection committee to be a better wicketkeeper than the Delhi boy. It did come across as slightly confusing because in Test cricket -- considered to be the most challenging format -- Pant features ahead of Karthik in the pecking order.
"Well, it's definitely a case where we have debated at length and all of us, in unison, felt that either Rishabh Pant or DK will only come into the playing XI if Mahi (MS Dhoni) is injured," said MSK Prasad on the criteria for selecting the reserve wicketkeeper. The chief selector went on to say that Karthik's superior wicketkeeping ability gave him the edge of the 21-year-old Pant. "So at that juncture, it is a crucial match like the semifinal or an important game (of the World Cup), wicketkeeping also matters. So that's the only reason why we went ahead with Dinesh Karthik, otherwise, Rishabh Pant was almost there," MSK Prasad added.
A recent rumour suggests that the vote of confidence for Karthik was not really in unison as four of the five selectors allegedly wanted Pant to be selected in the squad. But it was captain Kohli who vetoed that argument and convinced the majority of the wise men in favour of Karthik. If it is indeed true, it bodes well for Karthik to have won over the skipper's confidence beyond reproach. Of course, what worked in the 33-year-old's favour was his newly found Zen-like calmness in finishing games, which Pant has failed to do.
Another narrative that has been doing the rounds suggests that Kohli likes a tactically aware wicketkeeper. It is a given that Karthik will only stand behind the stumps when Dhoni is not playing and in order to have a wise mind who has captained teams, Karthik was given the nod. One has seen Kohli struggle with RCB and even with India in Dhoni's absence. Thus, he would prefer someone who has played the game for long enough and can assess situations well.
It must be noted that technically the captain cannot vote for any player but his preference is always given prior importance when it comes to the debated spots in a squad. This is because, at the end of the day, the captain will lead the side in the tournament and he must feel confident with regards to the plans he has for the squad in general.
Thus, when Kohli and Karthik walk out for the toss at Eden Gardens, the Indian captain will surely hope Karthik proves his selection call right, even if that means there's no saving RCB's campaign from another year of despair.